Consumer Assistance | Energy | Telecom | Warehouse | Commission Actions | Miscellaneous

2017 Highlights

Chairperson Kristie Fiegen
Vice Chairperson Gary Hanson
Commissioner Chris Nelson

Electric & Natural Gas
Grain Warehouse
Energy Efficiency
Grain Warehouse
Natural Gas
Pipeline Siting, Safety and Inspection
Public Outreach and Consumer Assistance


  • Processed five electric service territory boundary agreements to verify electric territory mapping data for conversion to electronic format and use in a geographic information system database.

  • PUC staff continued their investigation into Xcel Energy’s fuel clause rider that had begun in late 2016, evaluating whether the recovery of certain power purchase agreements through the FCR were reasonable and cost effective for South Dakota customers. Staff identified 29 resources that appeared to be above-market at the time the resource was acquired, or were acquired primarily to comply with another state’s laws and initiatives. Staff and Xcel engaged in numerous negotiation sessions that resulted in a settlement agreement being presented to and approved by the commission in September. The settlement provided an alternative pricing methodology for generation resources to the contracted price. The costs of certain challenged resources were adjusted to reflect a fair and reasonable price for electricity for South Dakota consumers, and a decision on the cost of the remaining resources was deferred to a separate proceeding where additional information on proxy pricing methods and could be provided. Xcel Energy filed its proxy proposal in January 2018.

  • The commission processed several transmission cost recovery tariff requests with these results:

    • In February, approved an update to Otter Tail Power Co.’s TCR rider rate. The updated rate covers costs associated with seven previously approved projects, the Big Stone South to Brookings Multi-Value Project, transmission service costs for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator and Southwest Power Pool, and revenue from the use of the company’s facilities in the MISO market. The revenue requirement approved for the company for this filing was $2,053,205.

    • In April, the commission approved an update to MidAmerican Energy’s TCR rate that covers allowed costs related to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Transmission Rate Schedules 10, 26, 26-A. The $342,240 approved revenue requirement translates roughly to a $0.06 monthly bill increase for a typical residential customer’s bill averaging 700 kWh per month.

    • In May, the commission approved an updated TCR rider rate for Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. The updated rate reflects the 2017 recovery period that includes transmission service costs for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator and Southwest Power Pool and revenue from the use of company’s facilities in the MISO and SPP markets. The monthly increase for an average residential customer using 650 kWh per month was approximately $0.47.

    • In November, approved Xcel Energy’s request for an update to its TCR rate to allow recovery in 2018 of approximately $6.6 million related to 14 transmission projects and costs associated with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s Schedule 26 expenses. An average residential customer using 750 kWh per month saw a monthly decrease on their bill of approximately $0.37.

  • In June, the commission approved a settlement agreement offered by PUC staff and Black Hills Energy for the company’s 2017 transmission facility and environmental improvement adjustments. The settlement was designed to provide stable rates and increase reliability to South Dakota customers over a significant period of time, provide savings to customers, and eliminate recovery of expenses in future rate cases, resulting in a lower impact to rates at that time. 

  • In October, the commission approved a reduction to Otter Tail Power Co.’s environmental cost recovery rider for the company’s share of improvements at Big Stone and Hoot Lake power plants. The bill decrease for a typical customer averaging 955 kWh per month was approximately $0.51.

  • Approved an annual update to Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.’s infrastructure rider factor in April. The change approved a 2016 revenue requirement of $726,797 and authorized MDU to continue charging the existing infrastructure rider rate of $0.00497 per kWh.

  • Continued processing a docket involving a complaint by Consolidated Edison Development against NorthWestern Energy pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act regarding a power purchase agreement for three prospective wind generation facilities in Brule, Aurora and Davison counties. An evidentiary hearing was held in April. The PUC issued a comprehensive decision including findings of fact and conclusions of law and ordered parties to negotiate a power purchase agreement.

  • The commission received a permit application in July for Crocker Wind Farm, a proposed 400-megawatt wind energy facility and 345 kV transmission line in Clark County. A four-hour public input hearing was held in Clark in September. In October, intervenors filed a motion to deny and dismiss the application. The commission found the application failed generally in form and content and denied the application in October and Crocker’s subsequent motion to reconsider in December. Crocker filed a new application for the project in December.

  • Attendees of the Center for Public Utilities Advisory Council’s Current Issues Forum heard a South Dakota perspective. Commissioner Gary Hanson discussed balancing renewable integration and markets with infrastructure investments. Commissioner Chris Nelson offered a regulator’s response about integrating and facilitating distributed energy resources into the grid.

  • Otter Tail Power Co. filed an application for the Astoria Station project in Deuel County in October. The project is proposed to include an approximate 250-megawatt simple-cycle natural gas fired energy conversion facility and related components. A public input hearing was held in Toronto in November.

  • Commissioner Kristie Fiegen offered remarks at the ribbon cutting of the CapX2020 Big Stone South-Brookings County 345 kV transmission line project. The 70-mile line is owned by Otter Tail Power Co. and Xcel Energy.


  • The commission opened a docket in December to investigate the impact of the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on South Dakota consumers of regulated electric and natural gas utilities. In most cases, the PUC anticipates the tax reform, effective Jan. 1, 2018, will reduce corporate taxes. The commission plans to ensure these savings are passed on to customers of regulated electric and natural gas utilities and ordered rates be subject to refund as of Jan. 1, 2018, pending determination of the impact of the tax reform. It is expected that analyzing the effect of the tax plan will be a lengthy and complex process.


  • The commission approved updates to energy efficiency and conservation programs. In 2017, the estimated energy savings for all investor-owned utilities were 17,101 megawatt hours of electricity and 44,802 dekatherms of natural gas.

    • Xcel Energy expanded LED lighting to its residential home lighting program.

    • MidAmerican Energy Co. continued offering its energy efficiency plan in 2017.

    • Black Hills Energy proposed to modify and extend its current Energy Efficiency Solutions plan, including removal of certain non cost-effective measures. The commission approved the request, but also removed additional measures it determined were not cost effective.

    • Otter Tail Power Co. continued its Energy Efficiency Plan in 2017.

    • NorthWestern Energy discontinued its Demand Side Management Plan as a result of the program not producing cost-effective energy savings.


  • Issued grain licenses to 177 entities with 326 locations and performed 413 inspections at 268 licensed facilities.

  • Investigated H & I Grain of Hetland for financial insolvency after receiving draft year-end financial statements that revealed the company had suffered significant losses. Following inspector analysis, the commission revoked the company’s grain buyer license and followed statutory procedures to begin the process to distribute H & I Grain’s $400,000 bond.


  • Commissioner Chris Nelson took the oath of office to begin his third term on the commission. Nelson will serve in the elected post until 2023.

  • Commissioner Kristie Fiegen was voted to serve as PUC chairperson and Commissioner Gary Hanson was voted as vice chairperson.

  • Commissioner Chris Nelson was selected to serve on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Board of Directors, a group tasked with overseeing NARUC’s efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of public utility regulation.

  • Commissioner Kristie Fiegen was named vice president of the Southwest Power Pool’s Regional State Committee. The committee provides state regulatory agency input related to the development and operation of regional bulk electric transmission in 14 states in the central U.S.

  • Mid-America Regulatory Conference leaders elected Commissioner Gary Hanson to serve a second term as the association’s secretary. MARC is a regional organization comprised of utility and energy regulatory agencies from 14 states that include Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.


  • Introduced a bill to define a solar easement and affording solar easement landowners the same protections currently given to wind easement landowners. The bill received unanimous support in both chambers.

  • Worked with the legislature to revise grain warehouse and grain buyer statutes to reduce regulatory burdens for grain warehouses and grain buyers while maintaining protections for grain producers.


  • In January, the PUC issued a declaratory ruling that it has jurisdiction over utilities providing natural gas to farm tap customers taking natural gas from the transmission line owned and operated by Northern Natural Gas; NorthWestern Energy is a public utility; and the commission does not have pipeline safety jurisdiction over farm taps. This declaratory ruling was later vacated by agreement of the commission and the parties.

  • In August, the PUC accepted a proposal by MidAmerican Energy Co. to provide services to farm tap customers connected to an interstate pipeline owned by Northern Natural Gas Co. The customers had been receiving natural gas service from NorthWestern Energy, whose obligation was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017. Since November 2016, PUC staff had attempted to facilitate discussions between Northern Natural Gas and NorthWestern Energy to ensure that service be maintained to affected farm tap customers without causing a detrimental impact to NorthWestern Energy’s other customers. When no timely agreement between the companies could be reached, staff reached out to MidAmerican Energy. Ultimately, all customers interested in maintaining gas service transitioned to MidAmerican or made other arrangements.


  • Completed 139 days of pipeline safety inspections.

  • Promoted the Call Before You Dig program with a news release for National Safe Digging Month in April. Encouraged visitors to the PUC’s booth at the Sioux Empire and Black Hills home shows and the South Dakota State Fair to take the One Call pledge to call 811 before any excavation activity.

  • Hosted the South Dakota/North Dakota/Wyoming Pipeline Safety Operator Training in Rapid City for nearly 200 members of the pipeline industry. Participants attended presentations by experts discussing pipeline safety management systems, plastic pipe, excavator enforcement, control room management, excess flow valve rules and more. The event also included an exhibitor showcase featuring 23 companies.

  • The PUC received affirmation in June from the South Dakota 6th Circuit Court of the commission’s Decision to accept as valid the certification by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline in South Dakota. Parties in the appeal included Dakota Rural Action, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and landowners. The PUC was notified in July that the Dakota Rural Action, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy appealed the circuit court’s decision to the South Dakota Supreme Court.


  • Visited with more than 3,890 consumers about the purpose and services of the PUC at spring home shows in Sioux Falls and Rapid City and at the South Dakota State Fair.

  • Assisted consumers on nearly 2,550 occasions with issues and complaints related to electric, natural gas, telecommunications (including wireless), pipeline siting, energy efficiency and other utility-related topics.

  • Helped to increase the total amount of South Dakota telephone numbers on the Do Not Call registry to 664,829.

  • Commissioners engaged in conversations about the PUC and power generation during classroom visits. Commissioner Kristie Fiegen was a guest lecturer at the New Technology High School in Sioux Falls and Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. Commissioner Chris Nelson visited eighth grade science classrooms at Mickelson Middle School in Brookings.


  • Thirty-four telecommunications carriers were deemed eligible to collectively receive millions of dollars in high cost support from the federal Universal Service Fund for maintaining, upgrading and building out their voice and broadband networks in South Dakota. The Universal Service Administration Co. estimates South Dakota carriers invested over $98 million in USF monies in South Dakota in 2016.

  • Commissioner Chris Nelson testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program. Nelson advocated for states to continue their oversight of telecommunications carriers who participate in the Lifeline program and for additional safeguards to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in the program.

  • Commissioner Chris Nelson’s expertise in telecommunications was an asset as he moderated panel discussions about broadband and the Universal Service Fund at gatherings of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Mid-America Regulatory Conference.


  • Monitored the actions and results as new wireless telecommunications sites were launched by companies at locations including in or near Huron and Wood. Wireless companies also made numerous network enhancements throughout the state.

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