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Energy Department announces 17 rural, tribal clean power projects

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The U.S. Department of Energy unveiled plans to allocate $366 million towards a range of clean energy initiatives across rural and tribal lands, marking a significant stride in President Joe Biden’s climate change and tax reform agenda. Funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, these 17 projects are poised to benefit 20 states and 30 tribal communities by bolstering access to more sustainable and dependable sources of electricity.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm lauded the innovative nature of these projects during a press call preceding the announcement, emphasizing their potential to revolutionize clean energy deployment in rural and remote areas. Among the initiatives outlined under the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas program are solar, battery energy storage, microgrids, hydropower, heat pumps, biomass, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

A key focus of these endeavors is to address the challenges faced by communities reliant on diesel, propane, kerosene, or gasoline generators by offering scalable and replicable solutions. Wahleah Johns, head of Indian Energy at the DOE, underscored the disproportionate energy burdens endured by tribal communities, with many grappling with exorbitant electricity costs and frequent outages.

Rural and remote regions, including tribal nations, contend with energy costs approximately 33% higher than the national average, compounded by limited access to larger electrical grids. Startling statistics reveal the dire situation, with approximately 21% of homes in the Navajo Nation and 35% of Hopi Indian Tribe homes lacking electricity altogether, while a significant portion of electrified tribal community homes experience regular outages.

These initiatives aim to alleviate such hardships, with one project slated to bring electricity to a community of 300 people for the first time on Hopi and Navajo Nation lands. Another project in Taos Pueblo anticipates saving households $700 annually. In Alaska’s Chignik, a hydroelectric system will replace a deteriorating wooden dam, liberating the community from its complete reliance on diesel.

Granholm emphasized the uniqueness of each project, tailored to harness local resources effectively. Highlighting the administration’s commitment to equitable clean energy distribution, she is set to address 700 tribal leaders at the DOE’s Tribal Clean Energy Summit in Temecula, Calif., showcasing the Biden administration’s transformative investments.

These projects, initiated a year ago, are a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative, striving to ensure 40% of the federal government’s clean energy investments benefit individuals residing in underserved and disadvantaged communities.

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