PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota regulators will let investor-owned utility companies propose how to handle customers who re-charge electric vehicles at their homes and businesses, including different prices depending on the time of day or night, and whether to offer equipment rebates.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission chose Tuesday to place the responsibility on each utility, rather than establishing new standards statewide. The commission in turn will decide on each company’s proposal as part of the normal rate-case process.
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The commission was responding in part to a requirement in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Congress passed and U.S. President Joe Biden signed in 2021. The federal law included a requirement that states “consider measures to promote greater electrification of the transportation sector.”
The commission also was fulfilling another new requirement: “Each electric utility shall promote the use of demand-response and demand flexibility practices by commercial, residential, and industrial customers to reduce electricity consumption during periods of unusually high demand.”
The infrastructure act had strong support from congressional Democrats and some backing from congressional Republicans. Among South Dakota’s all-Republican delegations, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson and U.S. Senator John Thune voted against it on final passage, while U.S. Senator Mike Rounds didn’t vote.
Gary Hanson was the most outspoken Tuesday among the three South Dakota commissioners, who are Republicans. “I’m a free-enterprise person,” Hanson said. “I believe we should have as few regulations as are necessary and allow free enterprise to work.”
Consumers will pay less if there are fewer regulations and less government interference, according to Hanson. “I’m a little bit between myself when I see the start of a dictate of this nature,” he said. “I really start worrying just how liberal some of the law starts getting and the requirements.”
Five utility companies answered the commission’s requests for reports on the two topics: MidAmerican Energy, NorthWestern Energy, Otter Tail Power, Xcel Energy and Black Hills Power. ChargePoint, a supplier of equipment and charging stations, also filed a report.
None of the companies’ representatives chose to make any additional comments during the meeting Tuesday.
Chairman Chris Nelson said the utility companies know the needs in their service territories. For there to be any chance of success, Nelson said, “The time of charging is going to be crucial. We can’t be charging all these vehicles at five o’clock in the afternoon.”
Nelson said the commission should monitor the peak load for each utility. If that load was growing faster than it normally would, and that additional growth was caused by electrification of vehicles, and rate incentives haven’t been put in place, then the commission might need to step in, Nelson said.
Go here for the electrification of transportation investigation docket, including the companies’ responses.