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The ANA Messenger: The Economic Development Issue

Winter 2012

Published: March 8, 2013
Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS), All

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Strategic Planning Opens Doors for Isolated Alaskan Village

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Through its new stand-alone Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Indian Energy, Policy and Programs (DOE Office of Indian Energy) and the Denali Commission are partnering to help rural Alaska Native communities conduct energy awareness and training programs and pursue new renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities.

In 2012, the Organized Village of Kake applied for, and was selected to, receive technical assistance through START. This program was to help develop a community energy plan, relocate a wind met-tower closer to the village, conduct biomass and hydro generation feasibility studies, install a photovoltaic system, identify bulk diesel improvements, and initiate residential energy efficiency activities.

Located on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island in southeastern Alaska, Kake is a community of fewer than 600 residents struggling with out-migration, loss of employment, and high energy costs, including residential electricity rates of $0.60 per kilowatt-hour. Kake’s energy suppliers are fractured—there is a cooperative utility, but fuel, heating oil, and firewood are delivered by other companies. Kake was among five Alaska Native START projects that received on-site, customized technical assistance from the DOE Office of Indian Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

START activities in Kake kicked off with a strategic energy planning workshop held in late 2012. Facilitated by NREL, Lesley Kabotie (Crow Montana), and other energy planning experts, the workshop strengthened the community’s commitment to realizing its energy vision and helped set priorities. In addition to Kake’s tribal government, other stakeholders, including the housing authority, electric utility co-op, and various local and regional native corporations, participated.

“The planning process pulled information directly from our community members as well as our partners and gave them ownership of the end product,” said Gary Williams, executive director of Kake. “It has really helped focus our energy initiative to a fine tip. It has been phenomenal for our community.”

NREL Senior Project Leader Brian Hirsch agreed, “We were able to get the right players around the room and incorporate their concerns,” he said. “By coordinating multiple stakeholders and securing their buy-in, Kake is in a stronger position to capture grant opportunities available at the state and federal level.”

Kake is already seeing benefits from participating in START. Progress to date includes:

  • Kake has received at least one of several grants it applied for and is in strong contention for a sizeable biomass grant.
  • Planning activities have resulted in widespread community education and strengthened commitment to energy development.
  • Kake has significantly improved its relationship with the local electric utility and other stakeholders.
  • Kake has prioritized its energy projects and built consensus on where to spend additional resources.
The DOE Office of Indian Energy is currently accepting applications from Alaska Native communities and entities for a second round of START technical assistance. Selected Alaska Native villages may also be eligible for grant funding that supports renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. Applications for the START Program are being accepted through March 15, 2013. To learn more about the DOE Office of Indian Energy’s Alaska START initiative and apply online, visit www.energy.gov/indianenergy/alaska-start.

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Last Reviewed: October 18, 2016