Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Seven Alaska tribes will receive more than $5.2 million in federal funds for energy technology to lowers costs, strengthen resilience and increase efficiency, under grants announced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Funded by the Office of Indian Energy, the grants will cover battery energy storage projects, building retrofits and a solar photovoltaic system for tribal communities in remote areas of Alaska.

Electricity rates in rural Alaska can run 800% higher than the national average, Murkowski said. “When you are paying that much just to stay warm, there is less that you will have available to feed your family.” 

Murkowski joined Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Ganholm for a formal presentation to announce energy funds for Native communities in Alaska and across the nation. The money represents the first awards this year from the Office of Indian Energy, which is part of the Energy Department.

“It’s good to be able to focus on good things that can come from the Office of Indian Energy as they work to facilitate and advance the needs of not only Alaska Natives but American Indian and Indigenous people around the country,” Murkowski said.

The grants provide opportunities to reduce energy costs and make “life better for our families,” she said.

Murkowski recalled meeting a foster mother in Aniak who showed her a $50 receipt for five gallons of home heating oil. “She said, this week I am choosing to keep my house warm. Next week, I am buying [baby] formula,” Murkowski recalled.

Helping Alaska Native communities improve energy resilience has been a focus for Murkowski that included work to secure a $6 million funding increase for the Office of Indian Energy.

Granholm said the new grants will support clean energy and help ensure that tribal communities “disproportionately affected by climate change directly benefit” from the investments. The Alaska funds to tribal communities are:

• Aniak Village: $167,948 for energy retrofits of five buildings, including the community center.

• Chefornak Village: $854,964 for a battery storage system that supports a standalone wind diesel grid.

• Kipnuk Light Plant: $855,978 for battery energy storage to integrate with a wind diesel grid.

• Metlakatla Indian Community: $1,031,110 for an electrical interconnection between the Annette Island Reserve and the mainland.

• Native Village of Diomede: $222,848 to improve energy efficiency at a new village store.

• Akiachak Native Community: $123,220 for energy retrofits and an LED upgrade.

• Native Village of Noatak and the Northwest Arctic Borough: $1,997,265 for a solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery energy storage system.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.