U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Tribal Energy Program

Energy Needs and Forecasts

Any form of energy planning—whether it be for an individual building, a tribe, or a country—necessarily starts with understanding the building's, tribe's or country's energy needs. What is the load? What are the services that are being provided or need to be provided? How much is being provided today? By what energy sources? And finally, how are these energy needs expected to grow in the future, as population expands and as local economic activities develop?

As the strategic plan begins to take shape and the focus on specific options narrows, more detailed load assessments may need to be done. At this stage, the objective is to understand the big picture, and be able to answer the following basic questions. Developing answers to these questions will help the tribe understand the present "as-is" situation, or energy baseline. The gap between the energy baseline and the vision needs to be filled through the action of the strategic plan. Every journey has a beginning and an end. Answering these questions helps define the beginning, the energy baseline.

  • Who are your current energy service providers?

  • How are energy supplies presently distributed to the tribe?

  • Are both gas and electricity available?

  • How much of each is used on a monthly basis (monthly load profiles for tribe as a whole or for major individual loads).

  • What is the per-unit cost of various energy supplies? What is the electricity tariff structure? How is the tribe's energy use being metered?

  • How do you expect the tribal load or major loads of concern to increase in the future? Will there be a concentration of new load or will it be dispersed throughout the tribe?

  • What are the economic development interests of the tribe that would impact the need for additional energy supplies?

Developing the answers to these questions builds the foundation upon which new energy planning takes place. It is a truism in today's energy economy that it is often cheaper to save energy than to build new generation capacity to meet increasing needs. Establishing an awareness of where and how major energy costs are impacting the tribe is the first step. That step will also help the tribe to define the energy efficiency opportunities that should be integrated into the strategic energy plan.