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Biden administration taps $366M to fund clean energy for Native American tribes and rural areas

By SOPHIE AUSTIN, Associated Press/Report for America
Published: February 27, 2024, 7:37am
2 Photos
FILE - A solar farm sits in Mona, Utah, Aug. 9, 2022. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, the Biden administration will announce 17 projects across the U.S. to expand renewable energy access in rural areas, particularly for Native American tribes. The projects, which will cost $366 million, are funded by a $1 trillion infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in 2021.
FILE - A solar farm sits in Mona, Utah, Aug. 9, 2022. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, the Biden administration will announce 17 projects across the U.S. to expand renewable energy access in rural areas, particularly for Native American tribes. The projects, which will cost $366 million, are funded by a $1 trillion infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File) Photo Gallery

The federal government will fund 17 projects across the U.S. to expand access to renewable energy on Native American reservations and in other rural areas, the Biden administration announced on Tuesday.

The $366 million plan will fund solar, battery storage and hydropower projects in sparsely populated regions where electricity can be costly and unreliable. The money comes from a $1 trillion infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in 2021.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called the announcement “historic” at a clean energy tribal summit in Southern California that began Tuesday.

“This is the largest amount that the Department of Energy has awarded to tribes for energy projects,” she said.

About a fifth of homes in the Navajo Nation — located in northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah — do not have access to electricity, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates. Nearly a third of homes that have electricity on Native American reservations in the U.S. report monthly outages, according to the Biden administration.

The announcement comes as Native tribes in Nevada and Arizona fight to protect their lands and sacred sites amid the Biden administration’s expansion of renewable energy. It also comes days after federal regulators granted Native American tribes more authority to block hydropower projects on their land.

The Biden administration will only secure funding for the 17 projects after negotiating with project applicants, federal officials said.

The projects span across 20 states and involve 30 tribes. They include $30 million to provide energy derived from plants to wildfire-prone communities in the Sierra Nevada in California and $32 million to build solar and hydropower to a Native American tribe in Washington state.

Another $27 million will go toward constructing a hydroelectric plant to serve a tribal village in Alaska, while $57 million will provide solar power and storage for health centers in rural parts of the Southeast, including in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

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