Giving Compass' Take:
- Valerie Volcovici reports that Native American tribes face enormous barriers when accessing the billions in clean energy incentives promised in the infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act.
- What role can you play in supporting tribes working to access these funds? How can you support legislation that better serves the communities it is directed toward?
- Read about the benefits of energy sovereignty for Indigenous peoples.
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The Standing Rock Sioux reservation near the border of North and South Dakota has some of America's most powerful winds, with 20 mile an hour (mph) gusts regularly scouring its vast plains.
The tribe in 2020 launched a plan to harness that energy with what would be the country's first tribal owned utility-scale wind farm – a project meant to supply jobs, money and electricity to a place where those things are in short supply.
The project is at the heart of the Standing Rock Sioux's long-term economic strategy, and revenue from selling power to the regional grid would replace the reservation's casino, which nets around $6 million per year, as the biggest source of revenue.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) enacted over the last two years have created enormous opportunities to develop wind and solar projects on tribal lands, offering around $14 billion in subsidies and incentives. The IRA also allows tribes and other tax-exempt entities to access the incentives in the form of a direct payment, instead of a typical tax break.
But, unlike the wind blowing across the Great Plains, the project is going nowhere fast.
Tribes cannot access key incentives for larger clean energy projects until they secure an agreement to connect to the regional electrical grid. That is an expensive process that can take years and requires technical expertise that most tribes lack. Other incentives provided under the legislation expire as early as 2024 and 2026.
That could jeopardize a "once in a lifetime opportunity,” according to Cheri Smith, president of the Alliance for Tribal Clean Energy, a nonprofit that is helping tribes develop clean energy.
"All of that money isn't going to do its job unless we remove these roadblocks," Smith said.
The Standing Rock Sioux’s project is one of around a dozen larger-scale clean energy projects proposed by tribes seeking to take advantage of new federal green energy subsidies, according to Reuters interviews with over two dozen tribal representatives, government officials and industry experts. The projects combined would produce at least 4GW of electricity.
Read the full article about clean energy incentives by Valerie Volcovici at Reuters.