WASHINGTON— Today, when visiting the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood announced that as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Department of Energy has selected five Alaska Native villages to receive technical assistance through the Alaska Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. The program provides federally recognized Alaska Native Corporations and federally recognized Alaska Native governments with technical assistance to accelerate tribal clean energy projects and initiatives.

The START Alaska Program supports tribal communities across the United States enhance their energy security, build a sustainable energy future, and combat climate change. It is a competitive technical assistance program 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 Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth 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.”

In this third round of Alaska START technical assistance, the Department and the Denali Commission, along with the Department’s national laboratories and other local and national experts, will assist the following communities with developing strategic energy plans to help mitigate climate change, conduct energy awareness and training programs, and pursue new renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities:

  • Hoonah Indian Association, a Tlingit community on Chichagof Island, located in Alaska's panhandle in the southeast region of the state, 30 miles west of Juneau.
  • Huslia Village, located on the north bank of Alaska’s Koyukuk River, about 170 river miles northwest of Galena and 290 air miles west of Fairbanks.
  • Kokhanok Village, located on the south shore of Lake Iliamna, Alaska, 22 miles south of Iliamna and 88 miles northeast of King Salmon.
  • Organized Village of Kwethluk, located in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on the Kwethluk River, Alaska, approximately 338 miles west of Anchorage and 20 miles east of Bethel.
  • Native Village of Shungnak, located on a bluff rising above the west bank of the Kobuk River, Alaska, about 10 miles downstream from the village of Kobuk and 150 air miles east of Kotzebue.

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.

Since its launch in 2011, the Alaska START Program has helped 11 Alaska Native communities advance their clean energy technology and infrastructure projects. A recent example of a village that has made significant progress is Minto, a small Alaska Native community 126 miles northwest of Fairbanks grappling with fuel and electricity costs exceeding $75,000 annually to run its Lakeview Lodge.  Through Alaska START, Minto received assistance in prioritizing energy efficiency improvements and successfully applying for grants to make much-needed weatherization 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.

START Program efforts complement the Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy’s efforts to make reliable and technical information and training available to tribal communities throughout the United States.

DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs directs, fosters, coordinates and implements energy planning, education, management and programs that assist Tribes with energy development capacity building, energy infrastructure, energy costs and electrification of Indian lands and homes.