Developing a strategic plan should start with a vision, or goal, in mind. Where is it you want to get to? Developing a tribal energy vision should go hand-in-hand with other tribal objectives, like economic development, job creation, and cultural values.
The first step is to agree within the tribe that energy is an important topic and worth including in the top items requiring the attention of tribal leaders. Energy will not be on the priority list for many tribes, and that is okay. In several regions throughout the United States, intertribal energy collaboration, the formation of tribal cooperatives, or other business relationships may make the most sense. But for tribes that believe they are overly dependent on energy imports from outside, that have economically developable local energy resources (renewable and fossil), and have the interest and commitment to change their energy future, the opportunities are many.
For tribes committed to securing their energy future, it is important to develop a common tribal vision. There is no prescription for the process to develop a tribal energy vision. The vision does not need to be static over time, but unlike the strategic plan itself (which is often an iterative process), the vision should "place a marker" on where the tribe wants to be, in say 5, 10, or 20 years, with respect to its energy situation. The vision should be a statement, or resolution, approved by the Tribal Council following active input from the broader tribal community.
Several things must emerge from this process.
The vision should set the policy direction for tribal action
A tribal champion should emerge, empowered and supported to lead the strategic energy planning process forward.
The vision should be specific enough to set clear direction, but should not be prescriptive in the methods used to achieve the vision (this is the job of the strategic plan itself).
Examples of possible tribal energy vision statements might include:
Establish tribal energy independence, self-sufficiency, and security through development of indigenous resources, capabilities, and institutions within the next generation.
From the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority:
"To provide electric, natural gas, water, wastewater treatment and related services at competitive prices, while contributing to the economy of the Navajo Nation, consistent with the improvement of the health and wealth of the residents of the Navajo Nation, and the employment of the Navajo people."
From the Hopi Hopit Potskwaniat — Energy Related Goals:
"To provide affordable and environmentally safe energy for local residents and businesses for the purpose of economic self-sufficiency."
"The purpose for which the Utility is organized is to provide an entity through with the Tribe may exercise all natural gas utility, electrical utility, other energy utility, water and sewer utility, telecommunications utility, and mineral use and development functions for the benefit of the Tribe, and to regulate all such utility matters of third parties on the Reservation."
From the charter of the Aha Macav Power System (AMPS), the tribal utility for the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe:
"The Fort Mojave Tribal Council hereby finds and declares that the creation of AMPS is necessary and desirable in order to promote the development of the Tribe's resources, to promote the prudent economic vitality of the Reservation and surrounding communities, to protect the health and welfare of tribal members and to provide employment and training opportunities for tribal members."