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

2018 Highlights

Chairperson Kristie Fiegen
Vice Chairperson Gary Hanson
Commissioner Chris Nelson

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


  • The commission received a complaint from Energy of Utah, LLC against Black Hills Energy pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 regarding a determination of avoided cost for a planned 80-megawatt solar facility in Fall River County.

  • In January, the commission determined Lookout Solar Park I, a proposed 110-megawatt solar facility to be constructed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Oglala Lakota County, meets the definition of an energy conversion facility under South Dakota law and a permit to construct is required. Lookout Solar submitted its notice of intent to submit a permit application for an energy conversion facility in February; the company’s permit application was received in December.

  • Approved an annual update to Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.’s infrastructure rider rate in April. The update approved a 2018 revenue requirement of $644,935 and authorized Montana-Dakota to charge a revised infrastructure rider rate of $0.00432 per kWh.

  • PUC staff began processing a request received in April from Otter Tail Power Co. to increase its electric base rates. Otter Tail proposed a net annual revenue increase of $3,358,574, or approximately 10.10 percent. The company also proposed an additional $629,107 or 1.72 percent step increase be effective Jan. 1, 2020. The commission will make a decision in 2019.

  • The PUC received an application for a facility permit application from Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC to construct a 7-mile, 230-kV generation tie line and associated substation facilities in Codington County. A public input meeting was held in Waverly in May.

  • In May, the commission approved an amendment to the settlement agreement approved in 2017 for Black Hills Energy’s transmission facility and environmental improvement adjustments. The amendment was brought by the company and PUC staff to provide clarity. The amendment specified the company’s obligation to file a comprehensive proposal for addressing the impacts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, including revising base rates as well as provided that customers be entitled to receive a credit as a means in sharing in the positive performance of the company’s South Dakota utility operations, to the extent the company achieves an average return on equity over the moratorium period above an agreed upon benchmark.

  • In June, the PUC granted a construction permit with 40 conditions to Crocker Wind Farm, a 400-megawatt wind energy facility and associated 345-kV transmission line in Clark County. The wind farm, which began construction in the fall of 2018, will include up to 120 wind turbines and 5.2 miles of overhead transmission. The company filed its application in December of 2017. A public input meeting was held in February in Clark and an evidentiary hearing took place in Pierre in May.

  • The commission approved the construction of the Astoria Station project in Deuel County in July by accepting a settlement stipulation between Otter Tail Power Co. and PUC staff. The 250-megawatt simplecycle natural gas fired electricity generating facility will serve as a peaking plant to provide electricity during times of high demand or when other generating sources are not available, will receive atural gas from the Northern Border Pipeline and will transmit its generated electricity to the Big Stone South-Brookings County 345-kV electric transmission line. The PUC held a public input meeting in Toronto in November 2017.

  • A permit to construct the Dakota Range Wind Project in Grant and Codington counties was granted by the PUC in July. The project will be capable of producing up to 302.4 megawatts of energy and include up to 72 turbines across approximately 44,500 acres and will interconnect to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator regional grid via the Big Stone South to Ellendale 345-kV transmission line, which crosses the project. The commission received Dakota Range’s application in January, hosted a public input meeting in Waverly in March and held a three-day evidentiary hearing in Pierre in July. Apex Energy has entered into a power purchase and sale agreement with Xcel Energy, an agreement that will make Xcel Energy the project owner upon the completion of the project and the acquisition of an energy facility permit from the commission. Twelve intervenors were part of the docket. In August the commission’s decision was appealed to the South Dakota 3rd Circuit Court by intervenors Teresa Kaaz and Kristi Mogen; the circuit court dismissed the case in November. Kaaz appealed the circuit court’s decision to the South Dakota Supreme Court. (In March of 2019, Kaaz filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, which was granted by the state Supreme Court.)

  • The commission received a permit application in October for the Dakota Range III project in Grant and Roberts counties. The project is proposed to include an 8-mile, 345-kV transmission line and an up to 151.2-megawatt wind energy facility. The wind portion of the project will be spread across an 18,717-acre area and include up to 42 turbines. A public input meeting was held in December in Summit.

  • Flying Cow Wind, LLC submitted an application to the PUC in October to construct a 10-mile, 345-kV overhead transmission line, substation and associated facilities in Deuel County. A public input meeting was held in Toronto in December.

  • In November, the commission approved a permit, with 42 conditions, for the construction of Prevailing Wind Park. The 219.6-megawatt wind energy facility will include up to 61 wind turbines in a 50,364-acre area spread across Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties. Other components of the project will include access roads, underground collector lines, an operation and maintenance facility and four permanent meteorological towers. Prevailing Wind Park filed its application with the PUC on May 30, 2018. A public input meeting was held in Avon in July and an evidentiary hearing was held in Pierre in October. Eight intervenors were active participants in the proceeding and evidentiary hearing. In December, intervenors Gregg and Marsha Hubner appealed the commission’s decision to the South Dakota 1st Circuit Court.

  • In November, the commission approved the transfer of the construction permit for Willow Creek Wind Energy Facility in Butte County from original applicant Wind Quarry Operations LLC to successor Willow Creek Wind Power LLC. Turbine and layout changes were also approved. Willow Creek’s original construction permit was granted by the commission in 2015.

  • In November, the PUC accepted a settlement agreement from Crowned Ridge Wind and PUC staff for a permit to construct a 34-mile, 230-kV transmission line in Codington and Grant counties and entered an order granting a permit to construct the transmission facility. The project is anticipated to deliver power from two proposed Crowned Ridge wind farms. A public input meeting was held in Milbank in January.

  • The commission received a permit application for Deuel Harvest North Wind Farm in Deuel County in November. The project is proposed to include a 310.1 megawatt wind energy facility and 345-kV transmission line with a 345-kV interconnection substation and has a total project area of approximately 48,730-acres.

  • Approved an update to Xcel Energy’s infrastructure rider factor in December. The change would add an approximate $1.25 to an average residential customer’s monthly bill and allow Xcel Energy to recover the cost of six previously approved projects plus one new one.

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

    • In February, Otter Tail Power Co.’s updated TCR rider rate was approved by the commission. The updated rate allows for recovery of more than $1.7 million related to eight previously approved transmission projects, SPP Schedule 9 and Schedule 11 expenses, and Midcontinent Independent System Operator Schedule 26 expenses. A residential customer using 1,000 kwh per month saw a monthly bill decrease of approximately $1.00.

    • In March, the commission approved an update to MidAmerican Energy’s TCR rate that covers allowed costs related to the MISO’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Transmission Rate Schedules 10, 26, 26-A. The $358,241 approved revenue requirement translates roughly to a $0.04 monthly bill increase for a typical residential customer’s bill averaging 700 kWh per month.

    • In April, an updated TCR rider rate for Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. was approved. The updated rate reflects the 2018 recovery period that includes transmission service costs for the MISO and Southwest Power Pool and revenue from the use of company’s facilities in MISO and SPP markets. The monthly increase for an average residential customer using 853 kWh per month was approximately $0.91.

    • In December, the commission approved Xcel Energy’s request for an update to its TCR rate to allow recovery of over $6.4 million related to 15 transmission projects and costs associated with MISO’s Schedule 26 expenses. An average residential customer using 750 kWh per month saw a monthly decrease on their bill of approximately $0.07.

  • The commission approved stray voltage training programs offered by the University of Wisconsin and the Midwest Rural Energy Council as required by the stray voltage rules the commission adopted in 2017.

  • The commission approved a request from STAR Energy Services LLC to approve three stray voltage testing professionals for conducting stray voltage investigations in South Dakota.

  • Processed 17 electric service territory boundary agreements to verify electric territory mapping data for conversion to electronic format and use in a geographic information system database. The GIS territory mapping project that began in 2011 has resulted in the approval of nearly 150 territory boundary agreements. The updated maps provide a more precise depiction of territory boundaries than the former editions.


  • The commission continued its evaluation of the effect of the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the rates paid by utility customers of the state’s investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities. The PUC voted to approve several settlement stipulations between PUC staff and regulated utility companies that resulted in a net savings for the year 2018 of over $23.7 million to South Dakota consumers as well as ongoing benefits.

    • Xcel Energy customers were refunded approximately $11.12 million collectively with the average residential customer receiving a one-time credit of approximately $55.73. The company also agreed to a two-year rate moratorium, ensuring South Dakota customers will not see an increase in their base electric rates until at least Jan. 1, 2021.

    • Black Hills Energy agreed to refund $7.67 million to customers for the year 2018. The average residential customer received a credit of approximately $50. Customers also saw a decrease in their variable charges and a slight increase in their monthly fixed charges, resulting in an ongoing annual net decrease to base rates of about $9 million beginning in January 2019.

    • NorthWestern Energy agreed to refund a total of $3 million to the company’s electric and natural gas customers. The average residential electric customer saw a one-time refund of about $18 while the average residential natural gas customer was refunded approximately $9. The company also agreed to a two-year rate moratorium ensuring customers will not see a rate increase until at least Jan. 1, 2021.

    • Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. refunded approximately $1.33 million to natural gas customers and approximately $0.59 million to electric customers. The average residential natural gas customer received an estimated $14.05 refund while the average residential electric customer received a credit of approximately $41.84. The PUC approved an ongoing reduction of the company’s base rates of approximately $0.076 million for its South Dakota electric customers and approximately $0.34 million for the company’s South Dakota natural gas customers, effective January 2019.


  • The commission approved updates to energy efficiency and conservation programs. In 2018, the estimated energy savings for all investor-owned utilities were 15,682 megawatt hours of electricity and 27,026 dekatherms of natural gas.

    • Xcel Energy’s 2019 Demand Side Management plan included adjustments to LED-related rebates for residential and business lighting programs.

    • Black Hills Energy eliminated the Energy Star LED Fixtures portion of the residential lighting program in its Energy Efficiency Solutions plan..

    • Otter Tail Power Co. continued its Energy Efficiency Plan in 2018 and the commission approved a budget increase for 2019.


  • Issued grain licenses to 169 entities with 331 locations and performed 446 inspections at 267 facilities.

  • Following the 2017 revocation of H & I Grain of Hetland’s grain buyer license, the PUC distributed H & I Grain’s $400,000 bond to 40 claimants. The PUC petitioned the 3rd Circuit Court to be allowed to take receivership of H & I Grain for the sole purpose of selling the corporation to a consortium of individuals and entities who had not been fully paid for grain sold to the company. CHS Hedging intervened and
    requested the court dismiss the case, which was granted by the court. In December, the PUC petitioned the 3rd Circuit Court to appoint an independent receiver. However, upon notification that H & I Grain had filed for bankruptcy and a trustee had been appointed, the PUC withdrew that petition.

  • Hosted the 2018 Association of Grain Regulatory Officials Annual Conference in Sioux Falls in July for grain industry representatives from 19 states and one Canadian province. Presentation topics included grain marketing strategies, grain surety bonds and risk reduction through inspections. Conference sessions also included a tour of the Earth Resources Observation and Science Data Center, an electronic data interface lab for inspectors, and a grain entrapment, technical rope rescue and dust explosion demonstration presented by Agtegra.


  • Commissioners selected Commissioner Kristie Fiegen to serve as PUC chairperson and Commissioner Gary Hanson to serve as vice chairman.

  • Commissioner Chris Nelson was reappointed to the board of directors for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and continued his role on the board of the National Regulatory Research Institute. He was appointed co-chair of the Washington Action Program, which provides a framework for improving the credibility, visibility and effectiveness of NARUC before Congress, the executive branch, the media and with other stakeholder organizations. Nelson also serves on NARUC’s Committee on Telecommunications.

  • Commissioner Gary Hanson was elected to serve as treasurer of the Mid-America Regulatory Conference. MARC is an association of regional organizations of utility and energy regulatory agencies from 14 states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

  • Commissioner Kristie Fiegen remained active in gas and pipeline advisory roles. She serves on NARUC’s Committee on Gas and Subcommittee on Pipeline Safety and on the Gas Technology Institute’s Public Interest Advisory Committee.

  • Commissioner Kristie Fiegen was named treasurer 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. PUC staff support the RSC’s efforts as members of the Cost Allocation Working Group.

  • Commissioner Gary Hanson continued to serve on NARUC’s Committee on Electricity alongside utility commissioners from across the country.

  • Commissioner Kristie Fiegen was re-elected in November to serve on the PUC until 2025.


  • The commission introduced legislation revising grain buyer statutes to strengthen protection for grain producers. The new law requires class A grain buyers to submit quarterly balance sheets for review by PUC staff, lowered the maximum allowed annual purchase amount for class B grain buyers, and clarified the
    process of calculating bond amounts for new grain buyers.

  • Legislation was passed to enable the South Dakota One Call Board to provide their own administrative support, including fiscal and legal services, that had
    previously been provided by PUC staff. The board remains attached to the PUC for budgetary purposes only.


  • In June, the PUC approved a settlement stipulation to reduce South Dakota Intrastate Pipeline Co.’s natural gas rates. Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., SDIP’s sole customer at the time of the case, and Ringneck Energy, a future SDIP customer, participated in the docket adding unique circumstances to the case. The approved settlement considered Ringneck’s future operational costs and was designed to ensure those costs are not solely borne by Montana-Dakota, but rather are properly shared by both parties. As a result of the case, SDIP’s annual revenues were reduced by approximately $279,000 and SDIP agreed to a three-year rate case moratorium.


  • PUC staff completed 129 days of pipeline safety inspections. .

  • In June, the South Dakota Supreme Court determined the South Dakota 6th Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the underlying appeal of the commission’s acceptance of the certification by TransCanada that the Keystone XL Pipeline in South Dakota continues to meet the conditions upon which the permit was issued. Due to this lack of jurisdiction, the high court vacated the circuit court’s decision and dismissed the appeal. Parties in the appeal included Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe and Dakota Rural Action.


  • Visited with nearly 4,030 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.

  • Developed the “Don’t Know? Don’t Answer.” promotion that offered tips to discourage consumers from falling victim to numerous telephone scams.

  • Assisted consumers on nearly 1,400 occasions with issues and complaints related to electric, natural gas, telecommunications (including wireless), pipeline siting, energy efficiency and other utility-related topics.

  • Increased the total amount of South Dakota telephone numbers on the Do Not Call registry to 680,944.


  • Thirty-two 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 $108 million in USF monies in South Dakota in 2018.

  • The PUC participated in the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase II Challenge Process, to review coverage data submitted by the state’s wireless providers to identify areas eligible for MF-II support. MF-II incentivizes 4G LTE deployment in primarily rural areas by providing up to $4.53 billion in support over 10 years through reverse auction. Of the areas the PUC reviewed, it found coverage was overstated by 30 percent. The findings were shared with the FCC in an effort to establish a more accurate depiction of the un- and under-served areas of South Dakota and encourage these areas be identified as eligible for support..


  • Monitored the actions and results as new wireless telecommunications sites were launched by companies at a number of locations including those in or near Belle Fourche, Blunt, Burke, Carpenter, Colome, Eagle Butte, Enning, Faulkton, Gregory, Groton, Hayes, Highmore, Hitchcock, Howes, Langford, Midland, Milesville, Mobridge, Mud Butte, Newell, Onaka, Onida, Philip, Roscoe, Seneca, Sturgis, Winner and Wolsey. Wireless companies also made numerous network enhancements throughout the state.

Back to Top