Consumer Assistance | Energy | Telecom | Warehouse | Commission Actions | Miscellaneous
arrow News | previous page

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 18, 2018                
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

PUC votes for NorthWestern Energy customers to receive refund

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission paved the way today for NorthWestern Energy to refund $3 million to the company’s customers and hold rates steady for two years.  

PUC commissioners Kristie Fiegen, Gary Hanson and Chris Nelson voted to accept a settlement agreement offered by NorthWestern Energy and PUC staff in the wake of analyzing how the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would affect rates paid by the company’s electric and natural gas customers. By Oct. 31, an average residential electric customer will see a one-time refund of about $18. The refund for an average residential natural gas customer will be approximately $9. The company also agreed to a two-year rate moratorium, ensuring customer rates remain static until Jan. 1, 2021. June 30, 2020, is the earliest the company can bring a request to the PUC to increase rates.

Fiegen, the commission’s chairperson, noted the arrangement puts a priority on customer pocketbooks. “I’m always glad to cast a vote that protects consumers,” she said. “The refund, by itself, is good. The rate moratorium, and stability it brings, is great,” she concluded.

PUC Vice Chairman Hanson, in offering the motion to accept the settlement agreement, stated: “This is a really good deal for consumers who will essentially receive two positive impacts, the refund and the unchanged rates.”

Commissioner Nelson acknowledged the months of negotiations between NorthWestern Energy and the PUC staff that culminated in the settlement agreement. “The provisions in the settlement are positive. These are things we like to see,” Nelson said.

NorthWestern Energy serves approximately 67,000 electric and 46,000 natural gas customers in South Dakota. Customers that were active as of July 31, 2018, will receive the refund.

In other action at the meeting, an amendment to a settlement stipulation accepted in a different NorthWestern Energy docket, EL14-106, included a provision requiring a true-up associated with one investment. Rates will change on Jan. 1, 2019, in accordance with that stipulation, but the change will be limited to that specific provision in the rate case settlement stipulation.  

In December 2017, PUC staff requested the commission open a docket to investigate the effects the federal tax cut would have on rates paid by customers of regulated electric and natural gas utilities. The commission voted to proceed with the investigation and ordered any adjustment made to rates as a result of the tax cut be effective on Jan. 1, 2018. Since then, the PUC has approved refunds to customers of Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy. Discussions between PUC staff and representatives of Otter Tail Power Co., Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., and MidAmerican Energy Co. are ongoing.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act docket can be viewed on the PUC’s website at, Commission Actions, Commission Dockets, Gas and Electric Dockets, 2017 Gas and Electric Dockets, GE17-003 – In the Matter of Staff’s Request to Investigate the Effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on South Dakota Utilities.