S.D. utilities seek different treatment of their unexpected COVID-19 expenses

Capitol News Bureau
KELO power outage

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Five investor-owned utilities that sell electricity, natural gas or both in South Dakota are trying to avoid rate cases over their COVID-19 expenses.

They recently made a group filing to the state Public Utilities Commission. The three commissioners determine rates that energy companies charge South Dakota customers.

The companies on the May 1 petition are Northern States Power, doing business as Xcel Energy; MidAmerican Energy Company; NorthWestern Energy; Otter Tail Power Company; and Montana-Dakota Utilities.

They want the regulators to let each company track COVID-19 costs since March 13, when Governor Kristi Noem declared a state emergency.

Each company then would propose a way to recover the money.

Brett Koenecke, a Pierre lawyer representing the group, wrote in the filing that they have taken “extraordinary actions” and incurred “extra costs outside of the usual course of business.”

Among examples were specific responses to the pandemic.

“Some compames are sending two trucks to sites instead of having personnel ride together. If an
employee were to be infected, the company would likely use sequestration to keep plants and system operations shifts working,” Koenecke wrote.

The filing also listed other unforeseen expenses such as protective equipment, bad debt expense, technology to continue business from remote locations, employee training, and special responses.

“Additional costs and related reduced revenues have also been borne by complying with additional government and regulatory responses to the virus, including shut-downs,” Koenecke wrote.

He noted, “The costs associated with the companies’ response to COVID-19 are above and beyond
both what the companies have budgeted for in normal utility operations and that which was
reflected in the costs of service that were used to set current rates.”

The state commission is scheduled to meet Tuesday, May 12, but the COVID-19 docket wasn’t on the agenda. The commission’s subsequent meeting is May 26.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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