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Interior Regional Housing Authority - 2007 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Interior Regional Housing Authority
Location: Hughes, AK
Project Title: Capacity-Building for Efficiency
Type of Application: First Steps (Planning)
DOE Grant Number: DE-FG36-07GO17090
Project Amounts:
DOE: $100,000
Awardee: $8,061
Total: $108,061
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2007
End: December 2008


This project addresses the needs of a consortium of tribes. The tribes include the villages of Hughes (representing the consortium), Birch Creek, Huslia, and Allakaket. The project proposed by the Interior Regional Housing Authority (IRHA) on behalf of the consortium is to develop an energy conservation program relevant to each specific community, educate tribal members and provide the tools to implement the conservation plan. The energy management program will be a comprehensive program that considers all avenues for achieving energy savings, from replacing obsolete equipment to the design and construction of energy conservation measures, the implementation of energy-saving operations and maintenance procedures, the utilization of a community-wide building energy-management system, and a commitment to educating the tribes on how to decrease energy consumption. With the implementation of this program and the development of an energy management plan, the communities can then work to reduce the high cost of living in rural Alaska.

Project Description

Energy costs for the people of Alaska are significant and, in most tribes, employment is seasonal and limited. Meeting basic needs for heat and electricity has become more of a challenge for these remote communities due to increased costs in getting the fuel to these very remote sites. Also, with Alaska's long and cold climate, heating costs are higher than in other parts of the country.

The villages served by IRHA experience some of the highest energy costs in the nation while incomes are substantially below the national median income. Recent oil-price increases have exacerbated the situation, making energy conservation in the region imperative — both for the preservation of natural resources and for the economic health of individual tribal members and the communities overall. The problem of energy delivery and energy costs in rural Alaska is multifaceted. IRHA and the villages it serves believe a reasonable start to a long-term energy strategy for the region is to reduce the amount of energy consumed. It is one of the few variables in a difficult equation that has long defied an easy solution. Individuals can exert some control over the costs they face, even though the larger issues associated with energy costs are beyond their control.

Since 1998, IRHA, as the tribally designated housing entity, has rehabilitated roughly 500 homes and built 130 new homes all over the Doyon Region (which is the size of Texas), including in the villages of Hughes, Birch Creek, Huslia and Allakaket. IRHA builds homes that are comparatively energy-efficient.


The main goals of this project are to:

  1. Reduce energy use through education
    • Make a minimum of two educational presentations over the course of one year in the communities of Hughes, Birch Creek, Huslia and Allakaket
    • Compile community-specific data and show examples of proven energy-saving strategies
    • Develop community-specific presentation materials, brochures, etc.

  2. Explore and research alternative sources of energy
    • Develop tracking mechanisms that will provide the data needed to develop energy management plans
    • Identify one person in each village to act as the "energy liaison" and gather data
    • Develop relationships with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Alaska Energy Authority to explore energy options.

  3. Develop long-term energy plans for each community
    • Working with the tribes, IRHA will develop a comprehensive plan
    • Over a one-year period, members of the IRHA team will travel to each village twice to look at current energy systems and energy usage; they will also host a one-day energy conservation training on how to make the best use of energy, existing alternatives, and appliances
    • The energy specialist — together with the village "energy liaison," the community, tribal council, and the IRHA mechanical and electrical specialty tradespeople — will draft an energy management plan that will be presented to each of the tribal councils for approval.


The project — to be conducted by IRHA on behalf of the villages of Hughes, Birch Creek, Huslia and Allakaket — is to develop an energy conservation program relevant to each specific community, educate tribal members and provide the tools to implement the conservation plan. IRHA coordination will lead to efficiencies that will allow for benefits to four separate and unique communities. All avenues for achieving energy savings, from replacing obsolete equipment, the implementation of energy saving operations and maintenance procedures and methods on how individuals can decrease energy consumption will be explored. The overall goal of the project is to reduce energy usage and energy costs to selected villages in the region.

IRHA, in conjunction with Hughes, Birch Creek, Huslia and Allakaket propose to reduce energy usage by developing strategies for both individuals and institutions in the villages by:

  • Compiling community-specific data
  • Developing examples of proven energy-saving strategies
  • Monitor and report energy use and its associated costs for the purposes of education, motivating action and reporting results
  • Explore cost-effective renewable and nondepleting energy sources in new construction projects and existing buildings; load-shifting technologies such as thermal energy storage will be considered
  • Inventory energy-efficiency improvements that come to light and that fall outside the scope of this project, and seek funding for implementation
  • Engage the communities by having a contest to seek new and innovative ways to save energy
  • Develop appropriate education materials and presentations for the four villages
  • Conduct two educational presentations in each community
  • Conduct research of existing programs and solutions that are applicable to the area
  • Assess current systems, alternatives and the best options (to be conducted by the IRHA electrical and mechanical departments.

Project Location

Hughes is located 115 air miles northeast of Galena and 210 air miles northwest of Fairbanks, on a bluff on the east bank of the Koyukuk River. Birch Creek is located about 26 miles southwest of Fort Yukon in eastern Alaska, along Birch Creek. Huslia is located on the north bank of the Koyukuk River, about 170 miles northwest of Galena and 290 air miles west of Fairbanks, within the Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge. The area encompasses 16 square miles of land and 1 square mile of water. Allakaket is located 190 air miles northwest of Fairbanks and 57 miles upriver from Hughes. The city is on the south bank of the Koyukuk River near its confluence with the Alatna River.

Project Status

The project is complete. For details, see the final report.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2007 funding opportunity announcement, "First Steps Toward Developing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency on Tribal Lands," and started in September 2007. The November 2007, November 2008 and November 2009 presentations provide more information.

For current project status or additional information, contact one of the project contacts.

Project Contact

Tiffany Simmons
Property Manager
Interior Regional Housing Authority
828 27th Avenue
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Telephone: 907-452-8315

Wilmer Beetus
Hughes Traditional Council
P.O. Box 45029
Hughes, AK 99745
Telephone: 907-889-2239