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News / Clark County News

Cowlitz tribe among groups awarded millions from state for clean-energy projects

The tribe will build a solar array; city of Vancouver and Clark Public Utilities also awarded grant funds

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 4, 2024, 5:56pm

The Washington Department of Commerce awarded more than $47 million in clean-energy grants to Southwest Washington cities, counties, public utilities and recognized tribes in two separate rounds of awards late last week.

Funding for the grants comes from the Climate Commitment Act.

The first round of grants, awarded May 28, saw $7.5 million go to five tribes for planning, design and building clean-energy projects.

“The Climate Commitment Act recognizes that communities will not feel the effects of climate change equally,” Commerce Director Mike Fong said in a Monday statement. “We know that there is a history of government assuming it knows best when it comes to what communities need, and we’re intentionally reversing that thought process.”

Fong said Washington tribes have unique and personal visions for achieving a more equitable climate future.

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe received $1.7 million to build a 100-kilowatt solar array and battery energy storage system on its administrative and clinic buildings. The arrays will power the buildings and provide supplemental power for electric vehicle charging.

Other awards included:

  • $90,000 to the Spokane Tribe of Indians for its nuclear solar farm project;
  • $251,000 to the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation for a community solar project;
  • $2.74 million to Willapa Bay Enterprises’ renewable ocean wave energy project; and
  • $2.75 million to Yakima Power for a solar over canal project.

The Tribal Clean Energy Grant Program will continue to accept applications through Sept. 27. Applications received and approved by July 19 will be announced in August, and applications received by the final deadline will be announced in October.

The second round of grants, awarded Thursday, saw more than $39.5 million go to jurisdictions to boost programs providing rebates and incentives to households and small businesses to purchase and install high-efficiency electric equipment.

“From heat domes to many days of below freezing temperatures, tens of thousands of Washington residents are put at risk each year by these increasing weather extremes,” Fong said. “Investing these Climate Commitment Act funds gives communities more opportunities to start or increase incentive programs that will help reduce use of fossil fuels and create healthier, more resilient and energy efficient homes and buildings.”

The city of Vancouver was awarded more than $1.3 million, Clark Public Utilities received about $471,000 and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s housing department was awarded approximately $508,000.

The state Department of Commerce received 35 applications for this funding round with requests totaling more than $82 million.

According to the news release, the funds were distributed with a focus on meeting the state’s equity and environmental justice goals. Commerce won’t provide rebates or incentives directly but will launch an online portal in the coming weeks that will allow people to search programs.

Some jurisdictions are expected to use the funding to bolster existing programs while others will use the grants to launch new programs.

Shari Phiel: 360-735-4546; shari.phiel@columbian.com; @Shari_Phiel

About the project: Community Funded Journalism is a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation that is funded by community member donations including The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation. The Columbian maintains editorial control over all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.