Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs

2017 National Tribal Energy Summit Explores Energy Sovereignty, Strengthening Strategic Partnerships

May 23, 2017

You are here

Representatives from tribal and state governments, federal agencies, private industry, utilities, and academia came together to exchange ideas and explore new and cost-effective solutions to tribal energy development issues at the National Tribal Energy Summit—Tribal Energy Sovereignty and Strengthening Strategic Partnerships, held May 1–3, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

"From the perspective of Alaskan tribes, we’ve been incredibly supportive of the work the Office of Indian Energy has done over the past several years, and we wanted to show that support at this year’s Summit—with the hope of maintaining continuity and momentum to build on the gains Indian Energy has made,” said Dave Pelunis-Messier, Rural Energy Coordinator for the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks, Alaska. “One of our other goals was to meet with Indian energy stakeholders from around the country to learn what they are doing on their reservations and to discuss ways to better direct our advocacy on priorities that provide tribes with better energy opportunities and improve the lives of tribal members. With respect to both of these goals, our time as the Summit was incredibly valuable.”

The event was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy in cooperation with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). This year's Summit brought together tribal and state leaders from across the nation along with their staffs, senior leadership from DOE and the Department of the Interior (DOI), members of Congress, industry experts, and tribal leaders from all corners of the country.

The first day of the event included meetings with members of DOE’s Indian Country Energy and Infrastructure, State and Tribal Government, and Nuclear Energy Tribal working groups to discuss tribal energy projects and priorities. The National Caucus of Native American State Legislators also met with working group members to discuss energy issues affecting tribes in their states.

Experts from the private sector, government, and tribes convened for a special roundtable discussion on accessing private capital for tribal energy project finance. Representatives from DOE and DOI also led a roundtable discussion on the memorandum of understanding the two agencies launched in 2016 to foster collaboration and cooperation to promote tribal energy development with an “all-of-the-above” approach.

The plenary session, which began on Tuesday, included opening remarks from former DOE Office of Indian Energy Director Chris Deschene, followed by a keynote address on tribal and national energy priorities by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and remarks from Senators John Hoeven (ND) and Tom Udall (NM) of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Additional updates on the state of Indian Country from Congress were provided by Representative Markwayne Mullin (OK), Senator Steven Daines (MT), and via video, Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK). Final remarks, delivered at the closing plenary session, were made by Frank Klotz, Undersecretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Representative Chris Collins of New York.

The DOE Office of Indian Energy moderated a panel on tribal leaders' strategic energy visions, as well as an interactive roundtable discussion of the critical issues and opportunities facing tribes and Alaska Natives in developing their fossil energy resources. An additional plenary session led by the DOE Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis explored how different programs across DOE interact with and serve tribes.

Representatives from various tribes, federal agencies, and private industry led concurrent track sessions on improving tribal access to capital for energy projects; securing energy costs and reliability through partnerships; trust modernization and the regulatory framework for tribal energy; and building capacity through workforce training and development. Exhibits and networking sessions created additional avenues for attendees to exchange ideas and make strategic business connections.

A special opening reception at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian featured several speakers, including Senators Al Franken (NY) and John McCoy (WA), and Representative Jason Lewis (MN).

Download presentations and view videos from the Summit on the NCSL website.