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Tribal energy organization wins worldwide recognition

BASEL, Switzerland - The Intertribal Council on Utility Policy was recognized on a world-class level for its work in the creation of a plan to offer clean, renewable energy to tribal reservations and improve economic conditions in Indian country.

The first-ever World Clean Energy Awards were presented June 15 to nine organizations representing countries from around the world. The awards were presented at the Faktor 4-Festival in Basel. Representatives attended from Abu Dhabi, China, India, Kenya, Sweden and the Rosebud and Lower Brule Sioux reservations.

ICOUP was given a Special Award for Courage for its work that established the first commercial wind power generation on any reservation with the 750-kilowatt turbine on Rosebud in addition to a plan that would create wind power energy for the western United States. The courage award recognized the ICOUP plan that would extend wind power to 3,000 megawatts from tribally owned power turbines on reservations across the northern Great Plains by 2015. The plan is referred to as Environmental justice Intertribal Wind Power.

''We are honored and humbled for selection by such a distinguished, juried panel of people who are knowledgeable in their field for sustainable development,'' said Pat Spears, president of ICOUP.

''It is good to be recognized for the feasibility of our project and now to be recognized that this is a viable plan,'' Spears said.

More than 75 tribes across the country have studied or are conducting studies on wind energy for the future development of wind energy.

''Along with being humbled and honored with the nomination, we are pleased to see a grass-roots tribal plan for renewable energy recognized at that world stage level,'' said Bob Gough, secretary of ICOUP.

''The indigenous peoples in America have understood the value in the face of climate change and understand a sustained economy based on renewable energy,'' Gough said.

With this worldwide recognition, ICOUP may become more recognized by people and the plan will have a better chance of becoming reality. Many cities across the western part of the country have signed on to accept tribal wind power energy.

The Western Area Power Authority has held meetings with ICOUP and there has been development that would lead toward the integration of tribal energy through wind. Congress authorized a study to be made by WAPA and the new administrator, Tim Meeks, who has made it one of his top priorities.

''This is rare that WAPA will conduct a study without appropriations. This study will look at the bigger picture and WAPA will be looking at their own resources and their distribution plan,'' Spears said.

WAPA is the largest distributed in the western United States of hydro power. Much of that hydro energy comes from the Missouri River which runs through the reservations of the northern Great Plains. With the past several years of drought, the hydro power has been reduced and coal is once again the generator fuel of choice.

''This is the heart of the richest wind regimes in North America,'' Gough said.

''This is a breath of fresh wind never before heard from WAPA. We appreciate the fact that WAPA has to now look at its diminishing hydro resource and find other sources of energy that do not consume water and do not contribute to greenhouse gases, which further reduce hydro power,'' Gough said.

Andre Schneider, managing director and chief operating officer of the World Economic Forum, was a member of the jury that selected the nine winners from among 70 projects nominated from around the world.

Schneider said the ICOUP plan did not fit easily into any one of the initial award categories, but because the jurors were struck with both the innovations involved with mainstreaming utility-scale wind power onto the western U.S. power grid and the work of American Indian tribes, ''whose cultural and spiritual values underscore respect for, and the protection of the Earth and her resources,'' the award for courage was given to ICOUP.

''American Indian tribes can supply clean, inexhaustible power from their rural reservations to help meet the growing demands for renewable energy from the many ICLEI and U.S. Conference of Mayor's cities which have pledged to meet their specific greenhouse gas reduction goals under Kyoto,'' Gough said.

''Together, local governments, such as cities and tribes can reduce the U.S. carbon footprint by recharging the transmission grids with clean wind power from America's rural heartlands to meet the energy needs of the urban load centers,'' he said.

Environmental Justice Wind Development plan

The goals of an Environmental Justice Wind Development plan, created by the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, is to generate enough alternative energy for the reservations with the surplus power to be sold through the federal power grid system to generate revenue and economic development for the tribes.

ICOUP, in conjunction with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, has developed this plan. The RST operates the first tribally owned 750 kW turbine, which went into operation March 4, 2003. The Rosebud turbine was the first of phase one of the ICOUP plan.

Phase one also includes a tribally owned 65 kW turbine on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, the second of all tribally owned turbines, commissioned Oct. 5, 2005. The third turbine is a family operated turbine on the Pine Ridge Reservation. A fourth element for phase one is a 660 kW turbine on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation in South Dakota and a fifth turbine, a 50 kW, will be operated at KILI Radio on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Phase two of the plan will increase the power to 30 to 50 MWs of wind power on the Rosebud Reservation. That project should be completed by 2008.

Phase three is a demonstration project with assessments for 80 - 240 MW and for 10 - 20 MW wind projects on eight to 12 reservations. That project has Department of Energy and BIA funding.

Phase four of the plan is to expand each turbine up to 150 MW across the northern Great Plains.

Phase five will complete the total goal of the generation of 3,000 MW of wind power on the Great Plains as 10 percent of the western governors' goal of generating and using 30,000 MWs of wind power by 2015.

The Rosebud/COUP intertribal wind plan is designed to:

--Create significant tribally owned generation to meet reservation energy needs.

--Gain experience, share risk and build tribal capacity.

--Pool tribal resources for economies of scale for export sales.

--Ease initial interconnection into a constrained federal grid system.

--Boost overall project capacity from distributed generation of 80 - 240 MW spread across several Great Plains states to supplement diminished hydropower and displace carbon dioxide intensive coal generation.

--Reduce opportunity costs for expansion from 10 or 20 MW to 150 MW.

--Use Green Tags or carbon offsets to overcome grid constraints by the sale of green offsets through as a separate commodity from energy.

--Meet Green Power goals of U.S. ICLEI cities for climate protection and federal agencies from Indian country.

Additional parts of the project will get under way in the next 12 to 15 months because the availability of wind turbines is critical. Many countries from around the world are in line for turbines.

''It used to be you could have a power purchase agreement in hand and then receive a turbine. Now you have to wait for the turbines. They can't build them fast enough,'' said Bob Gough, secretary of ICOUP.