Energy Sovereignty Workshop with NM Tribes

The Energy Sovereignty Institute (MSL’s partnership with the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative) will convene a workshop and summit of key New Mexico tribal energy stakeholders in the summer of 2019. This event will begin the process of developing ESI’s programming across a number of critical areas, deepening its resources in support of New Mexico tribes, and then expanding this model to national scale. The workshop is generously funded by Enterprise Community Partners and Cornerstones Community Partnerships.

The Institute is a social innovation initiative designed to promote the benefits of decentralized energy systems and technologies for Native American communities, and to advance their availability and use. 

The Workshop

The invitational workshop will engage participants in an exploration of what “energy sovereignty” means in the context of current technological, economic, and regulatory regimes; and will include expert presentations on and discussions about the options available for tribes to participate in the energy transition in ways that serve their values and objectives. Participants will also be asked to help design the next stages of ESI’s development, and specify the most valuable resources that should be included in the planned “clearinghouse” of useful information.

Our Sponsors

Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), a national organization, has been supporting rural and native communities for the last 30 years, and has recently focused on developing tribal capacity within New Mexico and South Dakota. Its mission is to create opportunity for low- and moderate-income people through affordable housing in diverse, thriving communities. To date, Enterprise has created nearly 529,000 homes, invested $36 billion and touched millions of lives. ECP developed the national standards for greener, healthier communities, and is continuously researching and sharing key data and lessons learned with its partners so that affordable homes and resources are more effective.

Cornerstones Community Partnerships (CCP), a NM-based 501c3 not-for-profit, works in partnership with communities to restore historic structures, encourage traditional building practices and affirm cultural values.  Using a hands-on approach to teach and reinforce these methods to both adults and youth, CCP has provided assistance to more than 380 architectural treasures and historic sites.  Its Solar Initiative focuses on installing and maintaining solar energy on Tribal lands and in rural areas;  and the training of youth, the unemployed and the underemployed. The program offers savings for individuals as well as their communities.  CCP has supported energy projects with members of the Navajo Nation, and the Pueblos of Cochiti, Laguna, Taos, and Zuni.

Additional sponsorship opportunities for both the workshop and ESI’s annual programming are available; please contact the project director.

The Institute

ESI’s mission is to ensure that indigenous communities have access to the most current cultural, technological, policy and regulatory, and financing resources in support of their goals in energy generation, distribution, and consumption. By pursuing this mission in three main areas of endeavor, ESI will serve as:

  1. A thought leader and principal point of contact for tribal energy sovereignty matters
  2. A nationally recognized clearinghouse for related information, resources, and initiatives
  3. A respected contributor to research critical to understanding the needs, challenges, and opportunities in the field

More specifically, ESI will operate a range of programs and projects, including demonstration projects, and engage with a range of key stakeholder collaborators. The research agenda may include appropriate technology design and development, including best practices from MSL Members and Advisors working in Africa and Asia on rural electrification solutions.

The Need

A significant portion of the Native American population is without any grid connection at all, or any alternative source of electricity. For example, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, over 40 percent of residents live without access to electricity. On reservations across the U.S., the Energy Information Administration estimated in 2015 that 14 percent of households have no access to electricity, 10 times higher than the national average. Even for those communities with a grid connection, their rural location is often at the end of a single distribution line, resulting in sub-par reliability and resilience issues. And for lower-income groups in general, energy represents a disproportionately high percentage of monthly household expenses, placing an additional and undue burden on Indians struggling with limited economic opportunities and high unemployment. Finally, because community-based systems lend themselves to local renewable energy generation, they support environmental stewardship values.


The Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative was founded in 2009 to advance the development of culturally and environmentally responsive housing design within American Indian communities. SNCC helps tribal communities gain self-sufficiency, improve their impacts on the natural world, and develop healthy, green, culturally-appropriate communities through planning, architectural design, technical assistance, and research.