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Chavez: Approach Outside Energy Consultants Cautiously

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Despite tribes across the country receiving federal funding to develop tribal energy programs, many tribes "are struggling to mobilize their energy plans," wrote Timothy Chavez, Pueblo of Acoma, and president of Kaatsiima, an Indian-owned consulting firm that supports tribal energy initiatives, in a op-ed on

A collective $54.8 million in federal funding from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program was distributed to tribes across the U.S. in 2009. While a "myriad of resources from federal, state and private sectors" offer information on establishing and implementing a tribal energy efficiency and conservation strategy, "many tribes lack an internal knowledge and expertise to realize improved energy efficiency and reduction in utility costs," Chavez wrote.

The consulting firm president warns that companies from the private sector can help tribal energy programs take off, but they can also "limit the long-term benefit a tribe achieves by establishing lease payments on renewable energy technologies, for example." Chavez recommends tribes initially planning energy conservation programs approach outside consultants cautiously. He explains a "collaborative partner" will consider the tribe's economic development, and benefits of a tribal energy programs like job creation, education and training opportunities, and asset development.

"Cooperative energy partners empower internal tribal resources and create a learning opportunity that leads to self-sufficiency," Chavez wrote. "By working to identify the right partners in energy programming, tribes can ensure an energy program that offers long-lasting benefits to their communities."

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