Schatz makes progress on direct loans for tribal energy development
Despite concerns, Indian advocates are impressed by U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs chairman's support for tribal energy.
WASHINGTON — While some tribal leaders and advocates are angry with U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Chairman Brian Schatz (D-HI) for failing to get more pro-tribal provisions included in the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act, others are hailing his recent energy-focused tribal efforts.
Case in point: Schatz’ advocacy on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) new direct loans for tribal energy development, as authorized under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 from March.
The Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program Update, according to Schatz and DOE:
Opens tribal access to lower interest rates and additional available capital for energy projects.
Authorizes access to tribal energy loans backed by the Federal Financing Bank and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Increases by 165 percent funding for DOE’s Indian Energy Policy and Programs for an appropriation of $58 million.
In his own words: “Energy is a significant and growing economic powerhouse for many tribes, which is why Congress acted to open up tribal access to lower interest rates and more capital for energy projects,” the senator said in a statement issued on July 29. “I look forward to building on this progress through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which includes additional funding and loan guarantees to support energy development for tribes.”
Schatz further noted yesterday that the Inflation Reduction Act offers $75 million for loans to tribes for energy development. He additionally said it provides a tenfold increase (from $2 billion to $20 billion) in loan guarantees for tribal energy development.
More: In July, DOE published a supplement to the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program (TELGP) solicitation to implement the new direct lending authority that Schatz is highlighting.
Expert analysis: Pilar Thomas, an Indian affairs partner with Quarles & Brady, says that Schatz deserves credit where credit is due.
“Sen. Schatz supported this important change to the TELGP, at the request of multiple tribes and tribal organizations, and I'm hopeful tribes and tribal energy enterprises will take advantage of this new aspect to the program,” Thomas tells Indigenous Wire.
“Federal interest rates are substantially lower than commercial lender rates, and lower financing costs create a huge competitive advantage — not to mention substantial long term cost savings — for tribal energy projects,” adds Thomas, who previously served as the deputy director for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs at DOE.
“This tool could be incredibly useful for ‘community’ scale projects (5 - 20 MW) and microgrids — projects that can cost between $10 and $40 million but can save tribes substantial utility costs and provide energy resiliency.”
More info from the DOE on the TELGP is available here.
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