The Energy Sovereignty Institute (ESI, a partnership between SFIP’s Microgrid Systems Lab and the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative) held its inaugural Tribal Energy Workshop in June, 2019.  A group of over 40 attendees and subject matter experts convened for two days to discuss a range of topics and themes related to energy development and transitions in Native American communities, and by all accounts found the sessions highly valuable in enabling them to advance energy planning with their tribes.

ESI is a social innovation initiative designed to promote the benefits of decentralized energy systems and technologies for Native American communities, and to advance their availability and use. Attendees at the 2019 workshop, which focused on New Mexico, included members of the Navajo Nation and the Pueblos of Cochiti, Laguna, San Felipe, Santa Domingo, Santa Clara, Nambe, Picuris, and Jemez, and also included seven student interns from Sandia National Laboratories’ Indian Energy Program.

The Workshop

The invitational workshop engaged participants in an exploration of what “energy sovereignty” means in the context of current technological, economic, and regulatory regimes; and included expert presentations on and discussions about the options available for tribes to participate in the energy transition in ways that serve their values and objectives.  Specific topics on the agenda included:

  • Energy sovereignty and tribal sovereignty
  • Trends in the environment: climate change, decarbonization
  • Regulatory and policy factors
  • Tribal cultures and leadership in the national energy transition
  • Federal, State, and local finance and technical resources
  • Technology options
  • Utility partnerships
  • Workforce training opportunities

Participants demonstrated a keen appreciation of the multiple factors bearing on energy planning, and the need for a holistic approach.  Expert presenters and panelists reinforced this paradigm, with representatives of these organizations:

  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • PNE Energy
  • Public Service Company of NM (PNM)
  • Kit Carson Electric Cooperative
  • NM Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department
  • North Central NM Economic Development District
  • Gallup Solar
  • Cornerstones Community Partnerships
  • Enterprise Community Partners
  • Spokane Indian Housing Authority
  • Sierra Club
  • Western Resource Advocates
  • Picuris Pueblo
  • Santa Fe Community College

Presentation slides will be posted soon, as will the workshop Proceedings, including recommendations for the next stages of development for the Energy Sovereignty Institute.

Our Sponsors

The workshop was generously funded by Enterprise Community Partners and Cornerstones Community Partnerships, with meeting space provided by the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Community Planning and its Indigenous Design Planning Institute. 

Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), a national organization, has been supporting rural and native communities for the last 30 years, and has recently focused on developing tribal capacity within New Mexico and South Dakota. Its mission is to create opportunity for low- and moderate-income people through affordable housing in diverse, thriving communities. To date, Enterprise has created nearly 529,000 homes, invested $36 billion and touched millions of lives. ECP developed the national standards for greener, healthier communities, and is continuously researching and sharing key data and lessons learned with its partners so that affordable homes and resources are more effective.

Cornerstones Community Partnerships (CCP), a NM-based 501c3 not-for-profit, works in partnership with communities to restore historic structures, encourage traditional building practices and affirm cultural values.  Using a hands-on approach to teach and reinforce these methods to both adults and youth, CCP has provided assistance to more than 380 architectural treasures and historic sites.  Its Solar Initiative focuses on installing and maintaining solar energy on Tribal lands and in rural areas;  and the training of youth, the unemployed and the underemployed. The program offers savings for individuals as well as their communities.  CCP has supported energy projects with members of the Navajo Nation, and the Pueblos of Cochiti, Laguna, Taos, and Zuni.