Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tribal lands ripe for renewable energy, but face many obstacles for development

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation says Indian tribes have the resources to generate vast amounts of renewable energy, but been hurt by a lack of tax incentives and insufficient transmission infrastructure. "The potential is tremendous," Bob Gough, secretary of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, which represents 15 tribes in the northern Great Plains, told Phil Taylor of Environment & Energy Daily. The 15 tribes represented by the council account for an estimated 200,000 megawatts of renewable energy potential.

Tribal leaders say tapping that energy potential "will require tribes and their development partners to overcome regulatory hurdles that typically extend project development by about two or three years," Taylor reports. Only one commercial-scale wind farm has been built on tribal land. Until more tribal energy projects are put through the permitting process, investors are likely to shy away from such partnerships,Tracey LeBeau, interim executive director of the Indian Country Renewable Energy Consortium, told Taylor.

Chief among the hurdles is a restriction in federal tax law prohibiting tribes "from receiving energy tax credits designed to add incentives to wind, solar and geothermal development," Taylor writes. Several bills currently before Congress would allow tribes to transfer their share of tax credits to taxable business partners. The fact that "even with abundant renewable energy potential, many of the 77 federally recognized tribes that could support such projects are located in remote areas that lack even the most basic electricity infrastructure, much less the kind of transmission lines needed to move large quantities of power to market," also has prevented development Taylor writes. (Read more, subscription required)

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