Renewable energy

  • NREL recognizes seven basic sources of renewable energy: biomass, hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, hydrogen, ocean Bronin, 223
  • Hoped-for breakthrough technologies: fusion reactors, nanoscale solar cells Victor
  • New generation of power 2015-2040 is dominated by renewable and natural gas, regardless of policy. Policy drives the extent to which natural gas dominates. EIA, 100
  • Solar & wind together are expected to dominate (80%) renewables capacity by 2040 EIA, 114
  • The renewable energy market is highly sensitive to the price of oil and gas. If natural gas prices are low (they are), renewables grow about half as much as they would if oil & gas were expensive EIA, 114
  • EIA, 59 has a graph of what renewable energy sectors to watch depending on whether/how CPP gets implemented
  • Learn more about municipal solid waste (MSW) for energy generation Wikipedia qualifies for RPS in some states EIA, 38

Typical project development process

  • Six phases: (1) market analysis (2) project viability/scoping (3) preliminary engineering design (4) legal + financial commitments (5) commission & construction (6) operation & ongoing maintenance

On tribal lands

Need

  • As of 1990, energy availability at no cost was 10x higher on reservation lands than elsewhere in the United States. Of the 16k households in the US with no electricity access, 75% were in the Navajo Reservation. Bronin, 228
  • Tribal households spend more on average on electricity & natural gas than national average electricity expenditure as percentage of income Bronin, 228-229
  • Primary blockers to energy projects on tribal land are (1) up front capital and (2) lack of local expertise Bronin, 233

Opportunity

Summary of Tribal Technical Potential by Capacity and Generation Doris, 10

  • Tribal lands are 5% of USA but have 10% of its energy resources (both renewable & nonrenewable) Bronin, 224
  • 95 million acres of tribal lands in the United States Bronin, 221
  • Solar PV (urban and rural), CSP, and wind have the most technical potential on tribal lands; tribal land in the southwest has the highest percentage Doris, 25
  • Maps of where the highest technical potential for specific renewables on tribal lands are located can be found in Doris: biomass Doris, 27, geothermal Doris, 30, hydropower Doris, 32, CSP Doris, 34, urban PV Doris, 36, rural PV Doris, 38, wind Doris, 40
  • Tribal lands typically have fewer land use restrictions than nontribal Bronin, 225
  • Key benefit for energy projects on tribal land: reduced permitting time & expense (through ITEDSA & typically less zoning on native lands)
  • Several agencies offer grants for strategic planning, analysis, business development, job training, and construction. 2002-2010 DoE's Tribal Energy Program disbursed $30.4m to support feasibility studies for 129 tribal projects. Other departments offer low-interest loans Bronin, 233

Issues

  • Tribes are not eligible for the same renewable energy financial incentives as taxable private companies e.g. ITC and PTC. They aren't taxed entities, so the credits do nothing for them Bronin, 234
  • Typically, tribes end up leasing land to private companies which then own the infrastructure. Tribes profit from land but not energy produced Bronin, 234
  • Ownership and tax structures are not always clear Doris, 13
  • Access to transmission lines may not be available Doris, 13

Legislation

  • Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act (ITEDSA), passed in 2005 for energy infrastructure on reservations. Allows leasing for renewables construction w/o federal approval. Bronin, 222
  • Government departments: two offices work on ITEDSA implementation: Division of Indian Energy Policy Development within the Indian Energy and Economic Development Office of the DoI; Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs in the DoE Bronin, 229
  • Government funding: ITEDSA allows DoI, DoE to offer grants, technical assistance, low-interest loans, & loan guarantees to tribes for the purposes of technical assistance; energy conservation programs; studies relating to acquisition of energy supplies, services, and facilities; planning, construction, development, operation, maintenance, and improvement of tribal electrical generation, transmission, and distribution; the development of a tribal energy resource inventory; and other feasibility studies. BUT: no amount of $ is required to be provided by these departments Bronin, 229-230
  • ITEDSA authorizes tribes to grant right-of-way for renewable energy projects and enter into leases/business agreements for energy resource development, pending a TERA Bronin, 230
  • No TERA has yet been negotiated (as of 2011). Process is cumbersome & federal absolution are together too daunting Bronin, 230
  • ITEDSA lets energy projects on native lands skip environmental analysis required in NEPA Bronin, 231
  • My analysis on ITEDSA: native lands have a lot of energy resources, e.g. oil, coal. This Act seems to allow for tribes to be paid for external energy companies to come in and extract, even if the current administration is environmentally conscious enough to reject it. It also requires a TERA signed between the Secretary of the Interior and the tribe, which absolves the federal government of any financial liability from such a project. Commonly, coal mines extract resources & then abandon the site without cleanup– one practice is to declare bankruptcy to get out of cleanup costs. Cleanup is then typically taken over by the federal government, which uses taxpayer dollars. But a TERA would place that ongoing expense on the shoulders of the tribe. Essentially, this Act looks like a trap for tribes in desperate times to get an initial income/employment surge and then descend into resource and further financial loss.

Further reading

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