The National Science Foundation has awarded funding to MSL, Navajo Technical University, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Seattle University for an energy sovereignty research workshop. This project will convene a diverse group of stakeholders from academia, Tribal governments and agencies, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, and energy sector organizations for a two-day event, designed to create a research agenda aimed at supporting clean energy transitions in Tribal Nations, and education and workforce training needs to achieve ambitious Tribal aspirations. MSL Member Sandia National Laboratories’ Indian Energy program is also serving on the organizing committee.
Energy Sovereignty Research
Tribal Lands hold immense clean energy resource potential. At the same time, many tribes experience high levels of energy poverty and significantly less reliable and poorer quality electricity service. Improving access to and the quality of electricity services in Tribal Nations is crucial to supporting improved health, well-being, and economic opportunity in a population where one in four lives in poverty. However, these challenges also bring opportunities for innovation and leadership in the transition to clean energy. While the potential is immense, convergent, collaborative research is necessary to overcome technical challenges, integrate Indigenous knowledge and values into energy planning, and understand the complex socio-technical systems in which clean energy technologies are embedded in the context of Tribal Nations.
Workshop Design & Outcomes
This workshop (which is also supported by the Public Interest Technology University Network and Remy’s Good Day Fund) will advance knowledge of the critical research and workforce development needs that must be met to advance clean energy transitions in Tribal Nations. The workshop will make contributions in the following areas: A) documenting Tribal objectives in advancing clean energy projects and Indigenous viewpoints on the goals of Tribal energy sovereignty; B) identifying unique technical challenges to developing clean energy projects on Tribal lands and defining a research agenda to overcome these challenges; C) understanding non-technical (i.e., cultural, regulatory, economic) barriers to clean energy development on Tribal lands and defining an agenda for convergent research on socio-technical approaches to Tribal energy planning; D) identifying critical educational and workforce training needs that must be addressed to meet Tribal clean energy goals; and E) convening and fostering a diverse network of educators, researchers, and Tribal leaders, professionals, and students to advance and champion this research and educational agenda.
As a member of the organizing committee, MSL and its Energy Sovereignty Institute is contributing to the design of the workshop, and will lead the facilitation of the event. MSL Advisory Board member Nathan Williams of RIT serves as Principal Investigator. The primary outcome of the workshop will be a research agenda to advance clean energy technology and project development in Tribal Nations. The workshop will bring together research universities and FFRDCs with Tribal colleges and Primarily Undergraduate Institutions to seed collaborative opportunities for research that directly engages Indigenous students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The workshop will as well seek to identify strategies to engage Indigenous scholars in clean energy research and professional fields, and to foster effective collaboration between the research and practitioner communities.