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

2021 Highlights

Chairman Chris Nelson
Vice Chairperson Kristie Fiegen
Commissioner Gary Hanson

Electric & Natural Gas Rate Changes & Adjustments
Energy Efficiency
Grain Warehouse
Leadership and Commissioner Outreach
National Lineman Appreciation Day
Pipeline Siting, Safety and Inspection
Public Outreach and Consumer Assistance

Winter Storm Uri


  • In April, the PUC approved an annual update to Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.’s infrastructure rider rate. The update approved a 2021 Infrastructure Rider revenue requirement of $1,028,616, authorized the inclusion of additional costs associated with the Mandan Substation and Lines Project and costs associated with the Lewis & Clark Substation Project and approved the new tariff rate of $0.00687 per kWh. As a result of this update, a typical residential customer using 853 kWh saw a $1.31 decrease to their monthly bill.

    Following the review of MDU’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan by an outside consultant on PUC staff’s behalf, staff filed a memo regarding the Lewis and Clark Regulatory Asset Recovery. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve MDU’s regulatory asset recovery proposal in November.

  • The commission approved an update to Xcel Energy’s Infrastructure Rider Adjustment Factor in December. The change adds approximately $1.10 to the bill of an average residential customer’s monthly bill using 750 kWh per month and allows Xcel Energy to recover the cost of 74 previously-approved projects, two new projects and operations and maintenance expenses associated with wind investments.

  • In August, the PUC approved an update to Otter Tail Power Co.’s phase-in rider rate with a revised “percent-ofbill’’ phase-in rider factor of 1.351% and a revenue requirement of $345,134. The updated rate allows the company to recover costs associated with the Astoria Station Natural Gas Plant project, Merricourt Wind Project, forecasted net benefits associated with additional load in the Lake Norden area and net savings associated with Otter Tail’s retirement of its Hoot Lake Plant. As a result, a typical customer using an average of 1,000 kWh per month will see their monthly bill decrease by approximately $3.75.
  • 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 the recovery of nearly $2.2 million related to two new transmission projects, two previouslyapproved transmission projects, the transmission adjustment from rate case EL18-021, Southwest Power Pool Schedule 9 and Schedule 11 expenses, and Midcontinent Independent System Operator Schedule 26 and 26A expenses and revenues, along with MISO Schedule 9 and MVP ARR revenues. As a result of this change, a residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month should see a drop of approximately $0.86 on their monthly bill.

    • In March, MidAmerican Energy Co.’s updated TCR rider rate was approved by the commission. The updated rate covers allowed costs related to the MISO’s Federal Energy Regulation Commission Transmission Rate Schedules 10, 10-FERC, 26 and 26-A. The $534,114 approved revenue requirement translates to roughly an $0.18 monthly bill increase for a typical residential customer’s bill averaging 700 kWh per month.

    • In April, the commission approved an updated TCR rider rate for Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. The updated rate includes costs associated with three transmission projects, two-previously approved projects along with the new Greenway Substation and Line Project, the MISO and SPP expenses net of revenues, and net of the Basin Facility Agreement revenue. The approved $1,038,261 revenue requirement translates roughly to a $1.54 monthly bill increase for a typical residential customer using 853 kWh per month.

    • In December, the commission approved Xcel Energy’s request for an update to its TCR rate to allow recovery of over $7 million related to 31 transmission projects, including the addition of 10 new projects and removal of one previously approved project, and costs associated with MISO Schedule 26 expenses. A typical residential electric customer using 750 kWh per month saw a monthly decrease of approximately $0.15.

  • In March of 2021, Black Hills Energy filed to amend its existing Cogeneration and Small Power Production Service Tariff to become its Qualifying Generation Facilities Service Tariff with the goal of putting in place conditions of service for customers who install behind-the-meter generation that are fair for all Black Hills Energy customers. The commission granted intervention to two parties in April and six additional parties in May. On Oct. 12, 2021, the commission approved a Joint Motion for Approval of a Settlement Stipulation signed by all parties. Through the settlement stipulation, parties agreed to dismiss the current docket, while continuing to work towards a solution through further examination of proposed solutions and data collection. The parties also agreed to hold at least two input meetings in both 2022 and 2023 to exchange data and discuss potential revisions to Black Hills Energy’s tariffs. The future filing of proposed revisions by Black Hills Energy will have a rate effective no earlier than Jan. 1, 2024.


  • The commission approved updates to energy efficiency and conservation programs. In 2021, the estimated energy savings for all investor-owned utilities was 22,423 megawatt hours of electricity and 8,907 dekatherms of natural gas.

    • Xcel Energy’s 2022 Demand Side Management Plan and revised Cost Adjustment Factor was approved by the commission, along with the company’s 2020 DSM status report, 2020 DSM Tracker Account, and performance incentive earned in 2020. The 2022 DSM plan includes changes to both residential and business lighting programs, modified the Residential Demand Response program to include townhomes as a qualifying AC Rewards dwelling type and increased the rebate and maximum tank size for qualifying residential heat pump water heaters.

    • Otter Tail Power Co. continued its Energy Efficiency Plan in 2021. The commission approved the 2020 financial incentive, 2020 Energy Efficiency Plan Status Report and an unchanged Energy Efficiency Adjustment Factor in June. In September, Otter Tail filed a request to modify certain existing programs that were previously approved in 2020 as part of its three-year energy efficiency plan to increase program rebate flexibility for 2022 and 2023 EEP program years. Program changes included a budget increase for 2021 and several rebate changes for 2022 and 2023, including decreasing rebates for the residential and commercial heat pump programs and commercial and residential lighting, discontinuing rebates for standard air source heat pumps, and adding a new measure and rebate for air-to-water heat pumps.

    • Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. updated its Conservation Program Tracking Mechanism in 2021. The commission approved a revised Conservation Tracking Adjustment rate of $0.020 per dk in February. As a result, a residential customer using 70 dk annually would see an estimated annual increase of $0.84.


  • Performed 492 inspections at 351 licensed facilities.

  • PUC staff investigated Farmers Cooperative Elevator of Avon for financial insolvency after seeing a steep decline in working capital and the company’s inability to secure the bond necessary to qualify for re-licensing for the licensing year beginning July 1, 2021. The commission approved PUC staff’s petition to seek receivership on July 8, 2021, and follow statutory procedures to begin the process to distribute Farmers Cooperative’s $250,000 grain buyer bond and a $632,000 warehouse bond. On Aug. 4, 2021, following a petition by PUC staff, the 1st Circuit Court ordered PUC Grain Warehouse Program Manager Cody Chambliss to serve as receiver of the grain elevator portion/grain elevator assets of Farmers Cooperative Elevator. Chambliss continues to work with the elevator to re-establish financial stability by paying off and/or restructuring debts, selling grain inventory or liquidating assets, if necessary.

  • In July 2021, commission staff became aware that Pipeline Foods, LLC, a licensed grain buyer in South Dakota until June 30, 2021, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and engaged in a remote electronic investigation of Pipeline’s financials and purchases within the state. The investigation uncovered unpaid cash sales that were contracted and delivered during the 2020-2021 licensing year, and showed that the company was unable to pay these cash sales. On Aug. 12, 2021, staff filed to open a docket and begin the process of seeking and disbursing proceeds from the company’s $50,000 grain buyer bond.

  • Following the 2020 surrender of Kingsburg Grain and Feed, LP’s grain buyer and grain warehouse licenses, PUC staff determined that no producers had claims covered by either the company’s $150,000 surety bond or $25,000 warehouse bond. PUC staff continued to work with the company to pay producers, ship out grain, set up deals that were financially beneficial to all parties, complete a full audit, organize a public auction, and help secure an offer for purchase of the facility. A final report from staff was filed requesting the commission close the docket in February of 2021 at which time all producers had been paid, all debts were settled, and Lesterville Grain and Feed had completed the purchase of Kingsburg and was fully operational.


  • Commissioners selected Commissioner Chris Nelson to serve as PUC chairman and Commissioner Kristie Fiegen to serve as vice chairperson.

  • Commissioner Gary Hanson took the oath of office in January to mark the beginning of his fourth term on the commission.

  • Chairman Gary Hanson completed his term as president of the Mid-America Regulatory Conference. MARC is an association of utility regulatory agencies from Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. Hanson had previously served two years as vice president, two years as secretary and one year as treasurer. As MARC president, Hanson led the commissioners conference in January.

  • Commissioner Kristie Fiegen was elected to serve as president of the Southwest Power Pool’s Regional State Committee, which is tasked with overseeing the fulfillment of the on-target, customer-driven goals of SPP as it provides bulk transmission, reliability and market services to transmission companies, utilities and end-use customers in the region. In addition to Fiegen’s participation with the group, South Dakota PUC Advisor Greg Rislov was selected 2021 chairperson of the Cost Allocation Working Group, a group tasked with supporting the Regional State Committee headed by Fiegen.

  • RSC President Fiegen created the SPP Improved Resource Availability Task Force comprised of SPP member subject matter experts, utility representatives and state regulators. This group is performing a comprehensive review of SPP’s February 2021 Winter Storm electric service issues. The task force will develop multiple recommendations over a two-year period related to fuel assurance, resource planning and availability, and other issues identified in the report. Fiegen was an inaugural member of the group.

  • Commissioner Chris Nelson served as chairman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Broadband Expansion Task Force. The Task Force issued their final report, which was adopted by resolution, at the NARUC Summer Policy Summit in July 2021.

  • Chairman Chris Nelson led discussions, offered insight and shared his range of knowledge with groups on varied topics throughout the year including wireless telecommunications, universal service contribution reform, and broadband funding, speed, and deployment to events and groups such as the Energy Policy Leadership Summit, Federal Communications Bar Association, Utilities Technology Council, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions’ educational summits, Center for Public Utilities Current Issues Forum, Utility Broadband Alliance Summit and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Commissioner Nelson also met South Dakota students and utility industry representatives, offering updates about the PUC at presentations to Newell and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology students, members of Advantage South Dakota, and at annual meetings of Midstate Telecommunications and Butte Electric Cooperative.

  • Vice Chairperson Kristie Fiegen met with numerous South Dakotans and utility industry groups throughout the year. She carried a message of the importance of public service to students from the University of South Dakota and high schools in Howard and Sioux Falls and encouraged future leaders at the South Dakota Girls State convention. Commissioner Fiegen provided updates about the PUC to several groups and events including the Heartland Consumer Power District’s annual meeting and the South Dakota Telecommunications Association/South Dakota Network Leadership Conference. As a long-time leader with the Regional State Committee of the Southwest Power Pool, she participated in many group discussions and presentations about regional transmission.

  • Commissioner Gary Hanson participated in a discussion about balancing demands, affordability and reliability among electricity fuel mix and power markets at the Center for Public Utilities Current Issues Forum. As president of the Mid-America Regulatory Conference, Commissioner Hanson led discussions among commissioners from the 14-state region about best practices, emerging matters and regulatory challenges.


  • Nationwide, 115,000 lineworkers work to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of electricity. On April 18, the PUC celebrated National Lineman Appreciation Day and encouraged all South Dakotans to thank the men and women who are always there to support our communities, even in the worst of conditions. National Lineman Appreciation Day was established by Congress in 2013 in recognition of those who work tirelessly to keep the power on.


  • PUC staff completed 168 days of pipeline safety inspections.

  • The PUC hosted the 2021 Meeting for the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives in Deadwood in August. The five-day event attracted over 130 members of the pipeline safety industry from more than 45 states. Participants attended presentations on a variety of topics including PHMSA rulemaking and accident investigation, hydrogen and liquid hydrocarbon permeation, monitoring and reporting on One Call Locate effectiveness and gas emissions detection. South Dakota PUC Pipeline Program Manager Mary Zanter served as the 2020-2021 NAPSR chairperson.


  • The PUC visited with more than 2,300 consumers about the purpose and services of the PUC at the South Dakota State Fair. Commissioners were involved in a number of outreach activities throughout the year, meeting with high school and college students, rural electric cooperative leaders and members and other South Dakotans as well as learning and sharing with utility commission counterparts from around the country at educational forums.

  • Increased the total amount of South Dakota telephone numbers on the Do Not Call registry to 701,444.


  • In January, the commission granted Meridian Wind Project LLC’s motion to withdraw their application for a permit to construct an up to 175-megawatt wind energy conversion facility, an 8.9 mile, 345-kV transmission line and associated facilities in Hyde County. The company moved to withdraw after being made aware of substantial and unexpected interconnection costs by the system operator. Meridian Wind filed its application with the PUC on April 23, 2020.

  • In March, the South Dakota 3rd Circuit Court issued an order affirming the commission’s decision to grant a permit to construct the Crowned Ridge II Wind Farm, an up to 301-megawatt wind energy facility in Deuel, Grant and Codington counties. The PUC’s decision was appealed by intervenors Garry Ehlebracht, Steven Greber, Mary Greber, Richard Rall, Amy Rall and Laretta Kranz in April of 2020. A second appeal was filed on May 1, 2020, by intervenors Amber Christenson and Allen Robish. By order of Circuit Court Judge Carmen Means, the two cases were consolidated later that month. On April 6, 2021, both groups appealed the 3rd Circuit Court’s decision to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Decisions by that court are expected in 2022. Phase I of the Crowned Ridge II project, consisting of 200 megawatts, began operations in December of 2020.

  • In June, the PUC received an application from North Bend Wind Project, LLC for a permit to construct and operate a wind energy facility with a nameplate capacity not to exceed 200 megawatts in Hyde and Hughes counties. A public input meeting was held in Pierre in August.


  • Twenty-eight telecommunications carriers were deemed eligible to collectively receive millions of dollars in highcost support from the federal Universal Service Fund for maintaining, upgrading and building out their voice and broadband networks in South Dakota. Each year, the commission must certify to the Federal Communications Commission that these carriers, designated as Eligible Telecommunications Carriers, are using funds for the provision, maintenance and upgrading of facilities and services for which the support is intended. Dollars invested reflect the strengthening and expansion of telecommunications infrastructure, to enhance system reliability and enable more service options to more customers, particularly in rural areas. In 2020, the Universal Service Administrative Co. distributed over $126 million in High-Cost Support and over $1.3 million in Lifeline and Link-Up monies to South Dakota companies.

  • The commission informed consumers of the upcoming 3G phase out and what steps they could take ahead of time to ensure a smooth transition. In an effort to allow providers to focus more of their resources on building out new networks with newer technology, like 5G, all major carriers, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, planned to begin decommissioning 3G networks in 2022. As a result of the change, some older mobile phones that require 3G networks to operate lost service.

  • The PUC helped prepare South Dakotans for the implementation of mandatory 10-digit dialing across the state through an informational campaign. Beginning in October, all callers were required to dial the area + telephone number for all local calls; those dialed with only seven digits would not be completed. The new required dialing pattern was a necessary first step in the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to establish 988 as a threedigit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline. Starting July 16, 2022, dialing “988’’ will route your call directly to the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline.

  • Commissioners, staff and members of the South Dakota Telecommunications Association gathered for the bi-annual SDTA-PUC Forum in December. Attendees heard presentations about broadband funding, the Connect SD program, cybersecurity, Universal Service Fund reform and emerging issues.


  • In February of 2021, an unprecedented, week-long cold snap resulted in unparalleled demand for natural gas and substantially impacted natural gas prices for utilities across the region. In addition to increased demand and prices for natural gas utilities supplying consumers with natural gas for heating, the event also stressed the bulk electric
    system, including Southwest Power Pool’s member electric utilities. SPP is a regional transmission organization managing the electric grid in a 14-state region in the central and western United States. Characterized by SPP as a 1-in-85-year event, the weather event known as Winter Storm Uri increased electricity needs for customers across the SPP region and created issues with natural gas supply due to frozen wells in the south. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator member utilities were also impacted to a lesser degree. Fortunately for those South Dakota electric utilities in the SPP and MISO markets, market sales revenue helped to mitigate increased natural gas prices. In response to the event and elevated natural gas prices that accompanied it, PUC staff requested the commission authorize staff to work with South Dakota’s six investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities to mitigate the rates impact to customers.

    • To mitigate the impacts of increased natural gas costs for its natural gas customers, NorthWestern Energy proposed two changes to its normal Purchased Gas Adjustment Clause process. These changes included proposing to speed up recovery and help reduce carrying costs experienced by customers by including the increased gas costs in NorthWestern’s March 1 PGA filing rather than waiting until April and that a share of increased prices be allocated to Rate 84 and 86 customers to ensure all customers pay their fair share of increased costs. Commissioners approved Northwestern’s proposal at an ad hoc commission meeting on Feb. 23, 2021. While NorthWestern electric customers were subjected to higher purchased power and fuel costs, they also benefitted from the higher market value for generation sales, negating the need for any changes to its normal electric fuel adjustment clause methodology.

    • MidAmerican Energy’s proposed mitigation plan to spread February actual costs throughout the months of March 2021 through December 2021 for its natural gas customers was approved by the commission at an ad hoc meeting on Feb. 23, 2021. On Dec. 9, 2021, MidAmerican requested to modify its Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment Rate mitigation plan to extend the recovery period through April 2022. MidAmerican was unable to collect all of the costs associated with this event as planned by the end of December 2021 due to the increasing market price of natural gas coupled with lower volumes due to warmer weather. This request was approved by the commission in January of 2022. MidAmerican Energy did not request changes to the normal electric energy cost adjustment methodology given the impact to electric customers was minimal.

    • The PUC approved Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.’s proposal to eliminate surcharge adjustment credits for natural gas customers at its Feb. 23, 2021 ad hoc commission meeting. In April, commissioners voted to grant Montana-Dakota’s request for a variance to its Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment Rate 88 tariff to allow an alternative computation of the surcharge amount and the timing of implementation. The approval allowed MDU to recover gas costs over a 17-month period beginning May 1, 2021, and implement a staggered rate recovery, in which summer rates differ from winter rates, for firm customers and a flat rate recovery method for interruptible customers. Montana-Dakota did not request changes to the normal electric fuel and purchased power adjustment methodology due to offsetting transactions in MISO and SPP that resulted in very little impact to Montana-Dakota’s electric customers.

    • Although Otter Tail Power Co.’s costs were up as a result of the February extreme cold event, the impact was not severe enough to warrant any special adjustments to Otter Tail’s Energy Adjustment Rider calculations and associated rates. The company filed its April 2021 EAR rate update, the first month to include costs from the cold weather event, showing a $0.02751 cost per kWh on March 25, 2021, which was up approximately half a cent from the March rate of $0.02275.

    • During Winter Storm Uri, Xcel Energy’s generation provided energy exceeding its load serving needs and excess energy was sold into the MISO market. The incremental revenue from those energy sales more than offset the increased costs of fuel during the cold event. As a result, Xcel estimated a net decrease in Fuel Adjustment Clause costs during the storm and made no changes to their FAC methodology.

    • Black Hills Energy filed for approval of deferred accounting treatment and the creation of a regulatory asset for its February cold weather costs associated with Winter Storm Uri in May of 2021. The request specified that the company planned to recover $20,065,640, or 83.6% of Black Hills Power’s multi-jurisdictional total of $24 million in costs associated with the weather event, from South Dakota customers through a separate line item on each customer’s bill labeled “February Costs.’’ It also detailed a 12-month recovery period beginning on June 1, 2021, and a proposed 12-month amortization with carrying cost of 1.35% in lieu of the normal 7% carrying charge. The commission voted 2-1 to approve the proposal, with Commissioner Nelson dissenting, at its regularly scheduled meeting on May 13, 2021.


  • The PUC monitored the actions and results as new wireless telecommunications sites were launched and new technology, including 5G, was installed to provide enhanced coverage by companies at more than 70 locations including those in or near Aberdeen, Box Elder, Camp Crook, Fort Pierre, Gettysburg, Highmore, Keldron, McLaughlin, Martin, Meadow, Midland, Oglala, Philip, Porcupine, Red Owl, Red Shirt, Reliance, Sisseton, Sturgis, Wagner, Waubay and Yankton.

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