Energy Department financial aid to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy is especially critical in Alaska because harsh climate and the enormity of the state complicates fuel and electricity distribution, resulting in some of the highest energy prices in the country. A portion of Energy Department aid to Alaska is helping with the development and testing of building energy monitoring software to increase a building efficiency and performance. The software is already being widely applied in Alaskan Native villages, cutting energy costs and providing other vital services.
As part of the Energy Department's Remote Alaskan Communities Energy Efficiency Competition, 64 communities ranging in population from 34 to 3,200 were recognized as Community Efficiency Champions this week during a visit by Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz. All of the communities have pledged to reduce per capita energy use by 15 percent by 2020 and are competing to be one of five communities awarded up to $3.1 million to achieve energy goals that help mitigate Alaska's high energy costs.
In 2005, residents of the Native Village of Fort Yukon were seeking a better, less costly way to heat the village’s common buildings and shared water system. At that time, leaders of the 600-person community eight miles north of the Arctic Circle began researching more efficient fuel options than diesel or fuel oil for their village, which is accessible by boat during the summer but only via snowmobiles and airplanes in the winter.
Change doesn’t happen on its own. It’s led by dedicated and passionate people who are championing innovative solutions to Alaska’s energy challenges. Alaska Energy Champions is a regular feature in the Office of Indian Energy's Alaska Energy Pioneer newsletter that spotlights pioneers of Alaska’s new energy frontier. This issue features Karen Johnson, program manager at the Denali Commission.
The Tonto Apache Tribe in Payson, Arizona, undertook a decades-long reservation infrastructure development effort that is still ongoing. In 2004, the small tribe was still actively looking for ways to fulfill its long-term vision, which is focused on sustainability and residential growth.
Retha Herne is Executive Director of the Akwesasne Housing Authority (AHA) in Hogansburg, New York. With the highest energy costs in the state of New York, the tribe is looking to alternative energy sources to help sustain the community for the long term.
In May 2015 I began serving as Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy. Since then, I’ve crisscrossed the country visiting American Indian and Alaska Native communities that face a variety of pressing energy challenges.