US Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall has announced the selection of five Alaskan Native villages to receive technical assistance in support of clean energy development.
Deputy Energy Secretary Sherwood-Randall made the announcement during a visit to the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Technical assistance will be provided to the five villages, as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, through the Alaska Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Programme.
START provides federally recognised Alaska Native Corporations and federally recognised Alaska Native governments with technical assistance to accelerate tribal clean energy projects and initiatives. It supports tribal communities across the US in order to enhance their energy security, build a sustainable future and combat climate change. It is a competitive technical assistance programme that assists Alaska Native corporations and villages with accelerating clean energy projects and aims to reduce the cost and use of energy for rural Alaska consumers and communities, increase local capacity, energy efficiency, and conservation through training and public education, and increase renewable energy deployment and financing opportunities for communities and utilities.
“Alaska Native communities face urgent energy, economic, and environmental impacts” said Sherwood-Randall. “Through the START Program, the Department of Energy is directly involved in supporting Alaska Native villages and corporations to develop and implement innovative, sustainable solutions.”
The third round of Alaska START will involve assistance from the Department and the Denali Commission, along with the Department’s national laboratories and other local and national experts, provided to communities in order to develop strategic energy plans, conduct energy awareness and training programmes and pursue new renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities.
The communities selected by the DOE are Hoonah Indian Association, Huslia Village, Kokhanok Village, Kwethluk Organised Village and the Native Village of Shungnak. These communities were selected from a pool of applicants based on their ability to demonstrate achievable energy or cost savings, implement renewable energy or energy efficiency project(s), develop an energy road map and establish an energy goal, ensure commitment from community leadership, participate in Energy Department- or other agency-sponsored technical assistance, trainings, or workshops, and identify a local climate action energy champion.
Assistance will begin in June 2015 and continue through June 2018.
START was launched in 2011 and the Alaska START programme has, so far, helped 11 Native communities to advance their clean energy technology and infrastructure projects. One such community is Minto village, 126 miles northwest of Fairbanks, which has been struggling with fuel and electricity costs exceeding $75,000 annually to run its Lakeview Lodge. Alaska START helped Minto to prioritise its energy efficiency improvements and apply for grants to make weatherisation upgrades to the building, which is used daily for school and senior lunch programs, community meetings, and village council operations. The changes are projected to result in at least a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency once the project is complete.