S.D. regulators allow late interveners as Black Hills Energy seeks changes for co-generation

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — For the past half-dozen years, more and more South Dakota customers of Black Hills Energy have produced homemade electricity that helps offset what they use. Now the Rapid City-based utility is asking state regulators to let the investor-owned company change how it treats new generators going forward.

The subsidiary of Black Hills Power wants the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to approve its plan for a ‘buy all/sell all’ billing system for new producers, requiring an interconnection study before hooking what’s known as a qualified facility to BHP’s system, and charging $10 per month for a production meter at each of them.

The qualified facilities currently producing would get a pass until 2041. Their numbers grew to 17 residences and two businesses in 2020, from 2014’s one residence and one business. The plan still stirs dissent.

The state commission had already granted intervener status to two people on April 14. Now the commission has added another half-dozen that arrived at the state Capitol after the April 9 deadline.

“The company has no objection to the interventions that have been filed in the docket to date,” Black Hills Power attorney Todd Brink said.

“Thank you. That will speed this along,” commission chairman Chris Nelson said.

One of the commission’s staff attorneys, Kristen Edwards, said staff looked forward to working with all the parties to determine “the best outcome” for the ratepayers. She noted the interveners can submit comments at any time in the docket.

“And we do take the time to read each and every one of those comments that are filed,” Edwards said.

One of those late requests came from Kevin Crosby, sustainability manager for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the operator of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone in the Black Hills. He said Xanterra never received notice from BHP.

Another set arrived from Sturgis attorney Eric Davis, on behalf of Cobblestone LLC, a real estate firm at Spearfish; Pangea Design Group of Spearfish; and Black Hills Homestead, which plans to develop an agritourism facility north of Spearfish.

Lee DeLange from GenPro Energy Solution of Piedmont also sought to intervene, as did Steve and Lynn Hammond, homeowners in Rapid City.

Said commissioner Gary Hanson, “I think this is pretty interesting, not that our other dockets aren’t interesting, but this is a very unique one.” He noted it would affect the future of renewable energy. “It’s an important one.”

Commissioner Kristie Fiegen said, “It is unique and it will be very fascinating.” She drew attention to a memorandum that staff had recently posted.

Said Nelson, “Typically I take a dim view of late interventions, but in this case it was clear that these folks did not have information about this docket in time to properly intervene on time.

“And it is also clear that they have got a unique perspective that needs to be incorporated into our thought process and our discussions,” he continued. “And so I think it’s entirely appropriate that we allow them that intervention today.”

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