Indian Energy, LLC’s Mission: Empower Tribes to Power Themselves

Allen G. Cadreau and his company, Indian Energy, LLC, have a lifelong mission: empower Tribal communities with the technical support to own and operate their own energy infrastructure to serve their own citizens and sell power to military installations and off-reservation communities. 

Military installations and Tribal reservations face a similar challenge: providing power service to members while meeting their core missions with ever-shrinking operating budgets. Indian Energy aims to solve these challenges with advanced energy solutions — including integrating microgrids into power delivery systems — with a focus on delivering cyber-secure energy solutions to the military and ultimately to Indian Country. The firm is 100 percent Native owned and is a certified small disadvantaged business. 

Indian Energy’s owners, including founder and CEO Cadreau; his son Allen J. Cadreau, the director of engineering; cousin Henry J. Boulley Jr., who serves as chief operations officer and chief information officer; and other family members are all citizens of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The Tribe also acquired a minority stake in the company.

The firm’s principals bring a wealth of expertise to Indian Energy’s portfolio of capabilities. Cadreau senior has more than 45 years in the electrical industry, including advanced microgrid design and utility scale power plant development expertise. He coordinated all technical efforts related to the acquisition of permits, project financing and construction for renewable energy projects located in the southwest delivering more than $2.4 billion in electric service. He also holds an active California C-10 electrical contractor’s license. 

Allen G, Nancy, Nicole, Jessica, Allen J (Photo Courtesy Cadreau family)

Boulley puts more than 25 years in information technology to work for Indian Energy. Boulley manages the day-to-day operations of the company and is responsible for overseeing all business operations. He previously managed the design, selection, purchase and installation of two world-class million-dollar telecommunication systems in Tribal communities. He’s also helped open several Tribal facilities and integrated new facilities into existing infrastructure and has master-planning expertise that’s invaluable in planning energy grids.

Cadreau’s son Allen J. Cadreau has only been in the energy business a mere five years but has expertise in construction management overseeing large electrical substation upgrades. He is responsible for all project modeling including creating 3-D virtual fly-by tours of energy projects as part of the planning and permitting process. The younger Cadreau coordinates pre-development efforts involving project-siting, electrical one-line diagrams and project cost estimations for project power purchase agreements. Daughters Nicole C. Cadreau and Jessica L. Cadreau manage interconnection and power flow analysis and Indian Energy’s distributive energy division, respectively.  

Cadreau says he got into the energy business after a southwestern Tribe asked him for technical support in creating a Tribal utility authority to generate and sell electricity. At the time, Cadreau was a vice-president of engineering for a Southern California development company, consulting for two municipalities interested in owning their own power generation assets. 

But, when Cadreau presented the idea to his superior to open a Tribal energy division, the reaction wasn’t what he expected. “The president of the firm was not enthusiastic about it,” Cadreau says. After some reflection, he says, “I realized there was a need for our people to better understand the ownership opportunities of Tribal-owned utilities.” This experience propelled Cadreau to create his own company—and Indian Energy was born. 

During a trip back to his Michigan reservation for a language course, he stayed with an uncle, Henry Boulley, Sr. As Cadreau was explaining his vision, the uncle said, “You have to meet my son. He is very talented, and I think Indian Energy can use him.” That led to Henry Junior, Indian Energy’s future COO, joining the company. 

Reservation Economic Summit microgrid workshop in 2016

The next step was for Indian Energy, based in Anaheim Hills, California, to obtain the 8(a) SBA certification. “We created a partnership with our sister Tribe, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota about a year ago,” says Cadreau. “This enables us to pursue U.S. Government set-asides and sole-source energy contracts with any governmental agency.” 

In 2014, Indian Energy was the only Native American-owned firm to be awarded a small business prime contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for solar energy development on Army bases worldwide. In May 2018, the Company was selected by the Navy as “sole negotiator” for Camp Pendleton’s Enhanced Use Lease energy resiliency initiative. Indian Energy will develop a microgrid solution with power production and storage facilities on the base and is also in discussions with regional interests like the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association to purchase and/or own the power produced by the system. The final solution will allow Camp Pendleton to continue mission critical operations in the event of local grid power outage.

“If the energy solution is good enough for the United States Department of Defense, it is good enough for our people,” Cadreau says. The firm is also ensuring that power grids will be secure from hacking with an innovative hardened cyber security solution. 

The defense contracts are part of Indian Energy’s overall plan to empower Indian Country via power generation and ownership. “After we get the defense contracts, we want Indian Country to own those assets,” says Cadreau. “We’ve talked with more than 20 Tribes, including the Southern Ute, Comanche Nation, Fort Sill Apache Tribe and the Kiowa Tribe,” he says. Cadreau says that the Indigenous peoples of several south Pacific islands, who also must deal with the challenge of outside-owned owned utilities, have expressed strong interest in microgrids. 

Indian Energy is also engaged in energy consumption monitoring and energy data analytics. Many of the firm’s customers desire minute-by-minute monitoring of their facilities energy consumption, and it’s the backbone of the firm’s microgrid designs. “Without understanding your instantaneous energy consumption, you are blind to an energy solution,” Cadreau says. And, their energy monitoring service helps customers save money by being aware of how they are using electricity. “Just being aware of how, when and how fast you consume energy can save you up to 20 percent of your annual electric bill,” Cadreau says. 

Microgrids, which are designed to power communities instead of entire states or regions, are an exciting part of the future of energy, and Indian Energy is helping drive the movement. From sustainable power generation to cutting-edge storage solutions such as flywheel kinetic energy storage devices and advanced use monitoring, Cadreau sees these smaller systems as Indian Country’s solution to giving remote Tribal communities energy independence – or, in the case of some communities, building energy capacity that was previously unavailable. “This is the future,” Cadreau says. 

Sustainable power systems like wind and solar have one serious drawback: they can only operate when the sun is shining, or the wind is blowing. Energy storage systems solve those barriers to truly sustainable power systems. Indian Energy uses a patented 3rd generation kinetic energy storage device. Instead of mining more lithium, which can exact a heavy environmental toll on surrounding lands, Indian Energy’s system uses inexpensive and readily available materials and components which make kinetic storage affordable. And, these materials are easily recyclable, making them even more environmentally friendly.

Indian Energy is positioned to be at the forefront of these new technologies, thanks to the firm’s brainpower and their expertise in selecting key partners with both smart money and energy sector skills. Indian Energy’s capabilities are built on a firm foundation: not only do Cadreau and Boulley bring more than 70 years’ experience in their respective fields, they are living the dream of educating and teaching their children the importance of giving back to their people through knowledge and industry expertise. 

“Education is our modern-day weapon—without knowledge we are helpless and dependent,” says Cadreau. “We choose to motivate our children from a place of love, respect, independence and company ownership. Mind your manners, complete your engineering degree and you will own a piece of the company.” 

Cadreau’s children all have their engineering degrees, while Boulley’s are currently acquiring theirs.

Indian Energy, LLC, team with Navajo Code Talkers, honored at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for their actions that changed the course of history during and after World War II.

Even Nancy, Cadreau’s wife of 33 years, is an electrical and software engineer for a major defense contractor. “I couldn’t add fractions going into college,” says Cadreau, “so I was assigned a math tutor. I ended up falling in love and marrying her.” The same sense of family extends to close friends. Cadreau notes that his family has invested time and energy in their childhood friends by creating talking circles and tutoring sessions. The family anticipates that they will obtain their education and join the company in the next few years.  

This commitment to building self-sustaining, prosperous Tribal communities springs in part from the staff’s Native heritage. The Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa people, like other Indigenous peoples, have a millennia-long history of building sustainable communities in often challenging environments. Their ancestral territories in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Sugar Island are beset by long, brutal winters, yet Cadreau’s and Boulley’s families not only survived but thrived in the area, thanks to their ancestral knowledge and ways passed down through generations. 

But most of all, Indian Energy’s mission is building Tribal self-determination through ownership and operation of Tribal-owned energy systems, says Cadreau. “We want to put power into the hands of our own people.”

“Tribal energy sovereignty is a very important thing. How sovereign can you truly be if someone else can turn off your lights?” asks Boulley.

Tribal Utility Authority Creation

Indian Energy LLC, a Native-owned firm that specializes in energy grid creation, securing power grids and transmission systems through cyber security strategies and energy management, provides technical support services and advice to Tribes with creating their own utility authorities. One of the firm’s guiding principles is to help Tribes “establish energy on our land and then push it over the fence,” says Indian Energy founder and CEO Allen G. Cadreau. The firm’s management has more than 50 years’ experience in all aspects of power generation, grid creation and maintenance, and energy conservation services. 

 

For example, Cadreau says that countless Tribal Nations have only received a fraction of the overall value of generation facilities. “We now have the technical expertise within Indian Country to own and operate them,” says Cadreau. Indian Energy would rather see the Nations in the energy business for themselves, as opposed to simply leasing land to power operators. “We want Tribes to own their own utilities, so they can electrify their communities and keep the dollars on the reservation,” he says.

 

The firm advises Tribes on the project of granting rights of way, securing permits, energy transmission and other aspects of working through the process of utility creation and management. To date, Indian Energy has assisted several Tribes, including the Little River Band, the Navajo Housing Authority, the Crow Creek and Rosebud Sioux Nations, Fort Bidwell Indian Community and the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association. 

 

“Indian Energy has sponsored workshops at various Reservation Economic Summit (RES) conferences [hosted by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development], where we provide in-depth detail for Tribal utility authority creation and/or the integration of microgrids within Tribal reservations,” says Henry J. Boulley Jr., the firm’s chief operating officer and chief information officer. “We have assisted Tribes in understanding their energy consumption, the applicable generation resources and various financing strategies available for Tribes.” Indian Energy has also provided owner’s engineering services for Tribes wishing to have a second opinion of prospective energy proposals. “Tribal energy sovereignty is a very important thing. How sovereign can you truly be if someone else can turn off your lights?” says Boulley.

Indian Energy, LLC, team with Navajo Code Talkers, whose heroic actions and contributions to the Marines were kept classified until 1968.

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