Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Renewable Energy on American Indian Land

Date and Time
Thursday, March 30, 2023 - 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Ahmadieh Family Grand Hall (Gross 330)
Renewable Energy on American Indian Land


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Students, faculty and staff are invited to attend the second Nicholas Institute and UPEP Environmental Institutions Seminar Series presentation of the Spring 2023 semester. Our speaker will be Dr. Bryan Leonard, associate professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Could renewable energy development on American Indian reservations earn a “double-dividend” by cutting carbon emissions while reducing poverty for tribes? This talk will explore a study that offers three insights. First, the colonial process of reservation creation left tribes with favorable wind and solar endowments, and these endowments are largest on reservations with the poorest populations. Second, despite favorable endowments, renewable projects on reservations are rare. Thus far, reservation land areas are 65% less likely to host wind facilities and 150% less likely to host solar than comparable adjacent lands. Third, if the disparity in renewable uptake persists, tribes may forego over $23 billion in landowner lease and tax earnings that could be accrued under forecasts of net-zero energy transitions by 2050. Leonard will discuss barriers that explain this investment disparity.

Part of the UPEP Environmental Institutions Seminar Series, organized by the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability and the University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP), a doctoral degree program jointly offered by the Nicholas School of the Environment and Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

This event is aligned with the Duke Climate Commitment, which unites the university’s education, research, operations, and public service missions to address the climate crisis.

Attend in person or register to attend virtually.


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Dr. Bryan Leonard is associate professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Leonard’s work focuses on the design of institutions to resolve collective action problems associated with sustainable resource management, focusing on land, water, and other resources in the Western United States. He uses a combination of formal theory, historical research, and econometric methods to study the evolution and performance of institutions that are crafted to solve resource challenges at a particular point in time. By studying the contemporary legacy of past policies, his research helps provide context for modern policy challenges while also informing the design of more sustainable institutions for the future. Leonard earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.