May 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department on Tuesday announced $34 million in funding for 18 renewable energy projects, part of an effort by the Biden administration to bring clean electricity to remote places that lack stable service and face high energy bills and severe impacts of climate change.

The funding, which comes from annual Congressional appropriations, will support smaller scale projects from Alaska to New York including microgrids and solar power, for 1,000 tribal buildings and more than 800 homes.

"Energy poverty is one of the biggest issues when it comes to Native American communities," Wahleah Johns, director of the Energy Department's Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, told Reuters.

“If they can generate power for themselves or generate it for outside use, it creates economic opportunities and generates a work force.”

According to a 2022 Energy Department survey of energy on tribal lands, 31% of tribes reported electricity outages monthly or more. About 17,000 homes on tribal land housing some 54,400 people have reported they do not have electricity.

Rural or remote communities tend to grapple with disproportionately high energy bills and unreliable energy service due to their distance from transmission access, creating a barrier to economic development.

Among the grants awarded is $3.6 million for the Hopi Utilities Corporation in Arizona to deploy a remote microgrid with 400 kW of solar power and 1,500 kilowatt-hours of battery energy storage.

Another project to get funding is a $600,000 installation of battery storage to be incorporated in the Alaskan Atmautluak Tribal Utilities' wind diesel power system, which will help the tribe reduce dependence on fossil fuels and save households $15,000 a year in home heating costs.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. environment and energy policy from Washington, DC. She is focused on climate and environmental regulations at federal agencies and in Congress. She also covers the impact of these regulatory changes across the United States. Other areas of coverage include plastic pollution and international climate negotiations.

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