Office of Indian Energy announces agenda for annual program review

The agenda is now available for the Department of Energy’s 2018 Office of Indian Energy Program Review. The annual event will be held at the Sheraton Denver West Hotel in Lakewood, Colorado, Dec. 10-14.

(Photo courtesy of DOE Office of Indian Energy)

The Program Review offers a tremendous opportunity for Indian tribes to meet, learn from other tribes that are pursuing energy self-sufficiency and share in each other’s successes.

Attendees will get project status updates from tribes across the nation who are leveraging Office of Indian Energy grant funding to deploy energy technologies or initiate the first steps to energy development.

There is no cost to register for the Program Review; however, advance registrationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. is requested to ensure sufficient appropriate seating and food availability. Onsite registration starts at 12:00 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 1, and continues at 8:00 a.m. each following morning.

Check out the overview and detailed agendas to learn more.

A block of rooms is available at the Sheraton Denver West Hotel. To book your room at the group rate, please visit the Sheraton Denver West Hotel website.You are leaving WAPA.gov. Note that the discounted group rate is only available until Nov. 12, 2018.

Source: DOE Office of Indian Energy, 10/24/18

Office of Indian Energy internship program builds technical expertise

Students learn about different types of solar panels and arrays during the July 2016 Ute Mountain Ute Youth Energy Day in Colorado, hosted by the DOE Office of Indian Energy as part of its efforts to promote STEM education in tribal communities. The event is one of many education and training opportunities the Office of Indian Energy offers to tribes.
Students learn about different types of solar panels and arrays during the July 2016 Ute Mountain Ute Youth Energy Day in Colorado, hosted by the DOE Office of Indian Energy as part of its efforts to promote STEM education in tribal communities. The event is one of many education and training opportunities the Office of Indian Energy offers to tribes. (Photo by DOE Office of Indian Energy)

An educated and technically skilled workforce is paramount to the development of tribal energy resources and the protection of tribal lands. The Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy’s college student summer internship program has cultivated that workforce for more than 16 years.

Current full-time undergraduates and graduate students who are familiar with Native American culture and tribal issues apply to support Office of Indian Energy-funded projects in the field and at DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories. During the 12-week internship, interns work with cross-disciplinary teams to receive hands-on experience and gain valuable knowledge about numerous energy technologies. This helps to build awareness in the tribal community around important energy issues and research while bringing technically skilled Native Americans into the workforce.

Half of the interns who have completed their degrees work in tribal positions, including one who is the renewable energy engineer for WAPA customer, the Navajo Tribal Utility AuthorityYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Another 33 percent hold jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields outside their tribes.

Graduates spread awareness
Recently, Chelsea Chee, a former intern and member of the Navajo Nation, received the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity Rising Star award for leadership across several major projects in New Mexico. The award recognizes individuals at the beginning of their career who have demonstrated exemplary leadership traits promoting access, equity and diversity in education and the workforce.

One of the accomplishments that earned the honor for Chee began with an idea she had as an intern in the class of 2011-2013. She created the Natives In STEM You are leaving WAPA.gov. program through her current position as the diversity and inclusion coordinator for New Mexico’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. “It wouldn’t have been possible if [my mentors and supervisors] hadn’t supported my work and my ideas, some of which were different,” Chee said. “But they trusted me and supported me and helped me turn those ideas into fruition.”

Chee’s initiative brings visibility to Native American STEM professionals, inspiring students of all backgrounds to pursue STEM careers. Now co-led with American Indian Science and Engineering Society You are leaving WAPA.gov., the project has distributed more than 4,500 posters that feature five Native STEM professionals, including to 137 Bureau of Indian Education schools, 14 tribal colleges and universities, and tribal libraries across the country. Chee is also active in the larger equity community at the state and national levels.

Inclusion matters
The importance of internships and programs like Natives in STEM for increasing diversity in technical fields cannot be understated. According to the National Science Foundation, American Indians or Alaska Natives hold just 0.2 percent of science and engineering occupations, and represent only 0.3 percent of highest degree-holders in S&E fields.

Especially to young people, it can make a world of difference to know that others from their community have followed a path that may seem beyond reach. Chee recalled that one of the reasons she applied to the internship program was Sandra Begay, the internship coordinator and principal member of the Sandia Lab technical staff. Begay was the first Navajo woman Chee met who was connected to STEM and became an instant mentor to the intern.

Since completing her internship five years ago, Chee has become a voice for tribal inclusion in STEM settings and has taken part in equity conversations at state and local levels throughout New Mexico. She pointed out that people from rural areas—tribal and otherwise—often cannot get to Albuquerque to take part in STEM-related conversations. “It is important to have that input,” she said.

Chee continues to make inclusion her mission, adding that the Indian Energy program and internship were instrumental for her. “It was one of the best, if not the best, internship programs I’ve ever been a part of,” she stated.

Participate in Indian Energy programs
The 2018 internship program placed interns on projects such as on- and off-grid photovoltaic installations and a distributed energy resource system comprising large PV array, micro-turbine, fuel cell and large battery bank. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and have a grade point average of 3.0 for undergraduates and 4.0 for graduate students. Learn more about the application process and past interns on the Office of Indian Energy website.

In addition to the internship program, the Office of Indian Energy provides education and training opportunities, including regional workshops, webinars, Tribal Leader Forums, a comprehensive online training curriculum and an energy resource library. WAPA cosponsors the Tribal Energy Webinar series to help the diverse tribal communities evaluate and prioritize their energy options.

Source: DOE Office of Indian Energy blog, 5/29/18

Webinar series answers tribes’ questions about renewable energy projects

One of the most important things we do at Western—after providing low-cost federal hydropower to public power utilities—is to help our customers manage their resources in a rapidly changing world. Now in its fourth year, the Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar Series is helping Native American tribes to gain a clear picture of a complex industry and build business relationships needed to develop the renewable resources on their lands.

Western has partnered with the Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs to present tribal members and stakeholders with valuable, practical knowledge about renewable energy technologies, markets and policies. Since 2011, the series has covered every aspect of project development, from resource and site evaluation to transmission access and interconnection to power marketing. The current series, Knowledge to Energy: The Path to Projects, builds on the material presented in the previous years to focus on best practices, case studies, regulatory issues and business and financing models.

Successful outreach
This cost-effective approach to technical assistance has reached thousands of Native American representatives and interested stakeholders. More than 3,500 tribal members participated in the 2014 series alone, and 2015 is off to a promising start, said Western Renewable Energy Program Manager and Webinar Series Chair Randy Manion. “We’ve received many notes of thanks and appreciation already for the first two webinars,” he commented. “We spend several months planning these series to ensure topics are on target, timely and useful in moving renewable projects forward on tribal lands.”

The January webinar, Best Practices in Developing a Tribal Strategic Energy Plan, had particular significance to a tribal representative located in Western’s Upper Great Plains Region. “He told me afterward that the tribe is developing a strategic energy plan, and the webinar made him realize the importance of community input in planning,” recalled Manion. “Those positive feedbacks happen after each webinar, and they are confirmations that we are on the right track with our topics and speakers.”

Manion explained that during the last four years, the question-and-answer sessions during the webinar and feedback afterward have helped the planning committee to hone in on what interests the tribes. Recruiting speakers, while still a formidable task, is getting easier as the series gains recognition for its high quality. “More tribal leaders and staff are joining the experts on the agenda,” he said. “We see an uptick in audience interaction and interest when the participants have a chance to talk to peers about their experiences developing projects.”

Bridge-building
The growing number of tribes with their own experience is another indication of the success of the webinar series. “Getting tribal members to participate as presenters for the webinars has been a priority for the series this year,” Manion acknowledged.

The series has helped tribes to better understand what they need to reach full or partial energy self-sufficiency—a high priority on tribal lands—and to keep that momentum going during changes in tribal councils and leadership positions. “We are also bridging awareness within the energy industry of what tribes are doing successfully, who they are and how to work with them,” added Manion.

Like many outreach programs intended to help customers, the Tribal Webinar Series has been good for the sponsoring agencies as well. Western’s Power Marketing representatives have observed that what tribes learn from the webinars about renewable energy issues increases their understanding of hydropower marketing and transmission issues.

More than talk—action!
The benefits of the webinar series extend beyond better communication about energy development to an increase in requests for technical assistance from the federal sponsors. Western has conducted several pre-feasibility transmission studies in support of potential renewable energy projects on tribal lands. These studies help tribes determine the probable size, interconnection and feasibility of proposed renewable projects, and also assist in the search for financing and potential buyers for the generation.

“Our technical assistance to Native American Tribes is not limited to pre-feasibility transmission studies and webinars,” Manion said. “With the funding Western receives from the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, we are open to considering other requests.”

For example, Western has conducted four prefeasibility studies for tribal utility formation. Two of the tribes are now independently moving forward to the next level of analysis. Also, the Energy Management and Marketing Office in Western’s Desert Southwest Region is conducting a market assessment to remove barriers and identify opportunities for tribal renewable energy projects that could interconnect with the ED5-Palo Verde Hub Transmission Project, funded by the Transmission Infrastructure Program.

Tribes interested in receiving technical assistance need to complete a simple TA form on the DOE Office of Indian Energy and Policy Program website. If DOE believes that Western can complete the request, it is forwarded to Manion who coordinates appropriate colleagues in an internal review to determine if it is suitable for Western to act on the request. In some cases, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory or another federal entity may be better equipped to handle the request. DOE, NREL and Western staff confer extensively with the requesting tribe before making the decision as to whether the request is a good fit for the agencies.

Native American tribes are poised to play a greater role in meeting the nation’s need for low-carbon, home-grown energy resources. At the same time, developing renewable energy projects is a way for tribes to grow their local economy and improve the quality of life in Indian Country. Western and the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs are pleased to provide technical assistance such as the Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar Series to move tribes closer to these goals.

The Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar Series is usually scheduled for the last Wednesday of each month, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time. There is no cost to attend, but you must register in advance. Presentations and audio files from past webinars can be found in the Renewable Energy Program webinar library.