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

Tribal Energy Program

Organizational Structures

While this Guide has an entire section on organizational development, it is important to understand and begin to strategize early on about the institutional changes that may be necessary to develop and implement an effective tribal energy program.

After conducting the load assessment, establishing the current energy supply status, and evaluating resource and technology options, it is critical to think about implementation and the organizational and institutional structures that will be necessary to raise financing, oversee project implementation, and carry out longer-term operations and maintenance functions. Effective implementation of any energy project — whether it involves conventional sources, renewables, or energy efficiency — requires a long-term commitment to a business-like philosophy. This may require establishing one or more business units within the tribe to separate the energy project commitment from tribal politics. While it is probably possible to carry out much of the preliminary project definition within existing tribal economic development or environmental teams, the effective, stable implementation of energy projects requires dedicated staff focused on the long-term success of the project.

There are a number of organizational options, including establishing a tribal utility authority, supporting small tribal businesses, creating an energy services company, expanding the scope of existing water and sanitation departments, creating joint ventures with existing U.S. businesses, or forming cooperatives with other tribes in the region. There is no "right" way to do this, and every tribe will need to do what seems best given their individual situation. It is very important, however, that some organizational unit be charged with the responsibility for carrying out the project from start to finish, with sufficiently skilled human capacity to assure the long-term viability of the project.

Some interesting and helpful case studies are also available to help guide the way.