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A new partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering and the Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association will help individual communities identify and implement clean energy projects that align with their priorities.

Through the Clean Energy Community Initiative, the college and the Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association aim to lead Wisconsin and the Midwest in the clean energy transition. The initiative brings together a network of industry, policy, research and community partners to co-create equitable and community-driven clean energy solutions.

“This partnership will unlock more value for our member Tribes, as we will have access to cutting-edge resources, expertise and opportunities to navigate the complex clean energy industry that is ripe with opportunity for Tribes,” says Jake Glavin, executive director of the Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association.

The Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association includes 23 member Tribes across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. It leverages members’ collective strength, wisdom and resources to develop Tribal capacity to plan, deploy and manage clean energy assets. Driven by a shared responsibility to live respectfully with the Earth, members aim to unlock the significant value from clean energy resources on Tribal lands and ensure a thriving future for generations to come.

Honoring and respecting the sovereignty and culture of each Tribe is an important objective of the partnership with UW-Madison. Two-way engagement forms the foundation of the collaboration, enabling individual communities to identify their needs, priorities and values; to participate in the implementation of solutions; and to directly benefit from their decisions.

“We want to really build a true partnership by listening to and serving communities,” says Oliver Schmitz, who directs the initiative and is a professor of nuclear engineering and engineering physics at UW-Madison. “The Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association is a unique partner in our statewide clean energy network, bringing essential Tribal perspectives and a breadth of knowledge and experience.”

He says the Tribal partnership will enable academic researchers to engage in two-way learning with Tribal communities and to develop strong, reciprocal relationships.

The Clean Energy Community Initiative, led by a multi-sector planning council that includes the College of Engineering and the Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association, is working to establish and grow a clean energy ecosystem in which communities, workforce development, job creation, education, research, policy, tech transfer, entrepreneurship, investment, and respect for our planet and future generations are all intertwined.

“We believe that energy sovereignty is a key component of Tribal self-determination and resilience,” Glavin says. “Together, we can create a brighter and more sustainable future for our communities.

Oliver Schmitz is the Thomas and Suzanne Werner Professor in nuclear engineering and engineering physics, associate dean for research innovation in the UW-Madison College of Engineering, and director of the Grainger Institute for Engineering.

A version of this story was originally published by the Clean Energy Community Initiative.