Sen. Murkowski and Sec. Granholm announce energy grants for Alaska Native communities

(Rachel Waldholz/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday announced 13 tribal energy grants, about half of which are going to Alaska Native communities. 

Granholm said the grants from the Office of Indian Energy will help meet President Biden’s climate goals. In total, she said, they will fund some seven megawatts of clean power generation and battery storage.

“That will power 1,300 tribal buildings and save these 13 communities a combined $1.8 million annually,” she said.

On a Zoom conference call with reporters, Granholm gave special recognition to Sen. Lisa Murkowski for supporting the Office of Indian Energy.

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Among the seven Alaska grants, the largest is $2 million to help Noatak and the Northwest Arctic Borough add solar energy and battery storage to the village’s diesel-powered grid. The smallest grant on the list goes to Akiachak: $123,000 to install energy efficient furnaces and lights in multi-use buildings.

Murkowski said even the small grants are important.

“Some may say, ‘Well, you’re just changing out lights,'” she said. “And you know what? If we can reduce the costs, if we can reduce the diesel that is used in these communities to power their communities by any increment, that puts us money ahead.”

The Office of Indian Energy was created in 2005. Murkowski says she helped expand grant eligibility in Alaska by allowing the funds to go to any census tract where most residents are Native, and by reducing the share local communities have to provide.

Granholm also thanked Murkowski for helping negotiate an infrastructure deal, which is likely to have more money for Indian energy.

Murkowski, whose seat will be on next year’s ballot, was the only senator who participated in Granholm’s Zoom press conference.

Alaska Congressman Don Young issued a press release commending the secretary for the grants.

The other Alaska grants are:

  • The Metlakatla Indian Community – $1,031,110 to complete the electrical intertie between its Annette Island community and Ketchikan.
  • Native Village of Kipnuk – $855,978 for a battery storage system to improve its wind-diesel grid. 
  • The Village of Chefornak – $854,964 for a battery storage system to improve its wind-diesel grid. 
  • The Native Village of Diomede – $222,848 for energy efficiency measures in the new village store. 
  • The Village of Aniak – $167,948 to install energy retrofits on four multi-use buildings and the Village’s Community Center. 

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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