“As the original caretakers of this land, I believe Tribes can lead the way to solving our climate crisis and building a regenerative and clean energy future.”
– Wahleah Johns, Director
DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs
The Intermountain West region of the U.S. is composed of states with shared geographical, environmental, and demographic attributes that present a broad spectrum of carbon neutral energy opportunities. The states also share related energy challenges, including persistent drought and economic dependency on fossil fuel.
I-WEST is more than a technical endeavor—societal readiness and environmental justice are key considerations for developing a regional energy transition plan. In fact, I-WEST asserts that rapid energy transition can only be achieved when scientists, industry, and communities work together so that regional needs inform technology development and deployment. An important project goal for I-WEST is to develop an understanding of the regional energy landscape, which includes stakeholder input on goals, concerns, needs, and expectations related to energy transition. To this end, I-WEST is hosting workshops, seminars, and listening sessions so that regional stakeholders have a voice in shaping the region’s clean energy transition.
In September 2021, I-WEST hosted community workshops across the region—one in each of the six states and one in the Four Corners area focused on Tribal Nations from that region. These workshops brought together a diverse set of stakeholders, including state and local government representatives, regional colleges and universities, the business sector, environmental non-profits, a variety of state agencies, and residents from within each of the states. The workshops were virtual and included panel discussions, presentations, and breakout discussions to gather inputs from stakeholders on a number of topics, including carbon-neutrality goals, concerns related to transitioning to carbon neutrality, needs related to transitioning to carbon neutrality, expectations related to transitioning to carbon neutrality and thoughts on effective technologies to meet carbon neutrality goals.
I-WEST is focused on regionally relevant energy solutions that can be deployed on an accelerated timeline. Pathways of particular interest include the capture, storage and use of carbon dioxide, the production and use of carbon neutral hydrogen, and the production and use of bioenergy and bioproducts, and the production of clean electricity. Starting in January 2022, the I-WEST team hosted technology-focused workshops to better understand technology readiness, infrastructure, policy, and societal readiness related to each of the technology pathways under consideration. The workshops targeted leaders of current and emerging projects in the region and presented opportunities for participants to connect their capabilities with other stakeholders and technology providers invested in building pathways to carbon neutrality in the region. These technology-focused workshops were followed by workshops focused on economic impacts (led by the University of New Mexico) and policy (led by Resources for the Future).
An ongoing seminar series hosted by I-WEST addresses a broad spectrum of topics tied to transitioning the Intermountain West to carbon neutrality, including decarbonization technologies, energy related policies, opportunities for building new energy economies, impacts on workforce, and environmental justice. The I-WEST seminar series features exciting presentations by thought leaders actively working in the area of energy transition. Some of our speakers to date have included Melanie Kenderdine, Principal and Executive Vice President of the Energy Futures Initiative; Jason Sandel, Executive Vice President of Aztec Well Family of Companies; Jose Benitez, Director for the Systems, Economic and Environmental Analysis Division within the DOE Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management; Ruby Leung, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model; and Moji Karimi, Co-Founder and CEO of Cemvita Factory, Inc.
If you’ve had the opportunity to join an I-WEST event and have additional thoughts you’d like to share, or if you did not get a chance to join but are interested in engaging with I-WEST, there is still time to join the conversation! I-WEST offers one-on-one listening sessions for regional tribes, local community leaders, special interest groups, educators, students, policy makers, project leaders, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders to share their perspectives on energy transition in the Intermountain West. If you are interested in scheduling a listening session, please send an email to [email protected].
Phase I: Regional Assessment
The first year of the initiative is largely focused on gathering information from regional stakeholders about current and future technology options for energy transition and their potential impacts on local economies, infrastructure, and ecosystems. The I-WEST team will analyze this information and use it to develop a technology roadmap that is regionally relevant, sustainable, and likely to deploy in 5–10 years. This information gathering and analysis phase helps ensure technology readiness is balanced with societal readiness, and that the I-WEST technology roadmap reflects the Intermountain West communities. The final report will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy.