On Oct. 4-5, I attended the Tribal Clean Energy Summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Conference of State Legislatures. I left the summit more knowledgeable about how DOE is working to center environmental justice and equitable access to clean energy technology and community reinvestment. Their efforts include grants, loans, educational opportunities, and technical assistance.

Summit speakers walked attendees through how the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will support tribes in clean energy development. This support includes clean energy tax credits for tribal governments and nonprofits, energy loan guarantees, and climate resilience programs.

Most notably, the DOE Loan Programs Office, through the Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment Program, will support repurposing fossil fuel assets into clean, carbon-free technologies, including adaptively reusing coal plant sites with small modular reactors and reusing old mines for clean energy projects. The Loan Programs Office will also provide climate pollution reduction grants for tribes to partner with nonprofits to address pollution in their communities, including abandoned mine pollution. 

Through these new DOE programs, tribal communities can receive direct payments of tax credits and bonuses stacked together with funding to finance up to 70% of new energy projects. The programs will be crucial to addressing legacy uranium mine pollution and supporting new advanced nuclear projects at old coal-fired power plants on or near tribal communities. However, many attendees raised concerns about accessibility and technical assistance for tribal grant and loan applications because tribes often do not have the resources to hire grant writers or attorneys to help sift through complicated applications. 

This summit gave me a greater understanding of what tribes may need to take advantage of these programs and tax credits. As a result, I believe it is incumbent upon federal agencies to consider the best ways to ensure tribes have the technical and administrative assistance necessary to access these clean energy programs and funds.