South Dakota Public Utilities Commission declares order that Randall Community Water District can offset power usage with renewable energy

In a first of its kind decision on Friday, February 1st, 2019 and a win for distributed power generation, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission made a declaratory order that Randall Community Water District, a large commercial customer of Charles Mix Electric based in Lake Andes, could offset their power usage with their own renewable energy project.

Commission Chairman Gary Hanson led the proceedings and in the discussion of the motion to issue the declaratory order remarked, “we’re addressing whether a customer can self-generate, and obviously a customer should be allowed to do that.”

In his support of the order, Commissioner Chris Nelson remarked on the evolution of the utility model. “The bottom line is, this is the realization that the utility model is changing.” He went on, ”because technology has driven down the cost of renewables, all of the sudden consumers are finding that, ‘maybe that’s an option for me.’ It’s what the economics are driving at, the technology is driving at.” Speaking about the investor owned utilities that the PUC works with, “they’re grappling with this and in some cases, they’re trying to create some unique models where they can work with their customers for renewable generation and not be completely removed from that whole mix. And so those are the kind of things that all of us in this space are going to be wrestling with as renewables become more and more frequent in the generation mix.”

Scott Pick, General Manager of Randall Community Water District expressed his excitement over the decision. “This is a landmark decision for the future of green energy in South Dakota. We are grateful for the thoughtful consideration of the PUC and the positive outcome in our favor.”

CEO of GenPro Energy Solutions, Dwight Patterson applauded the decision. “Today’s ruling by the Public Utilities Commission ensures Randall Water District can take advantage of best practices provided by today’s energy saving models.”

Sara Lynn Pesek, Government Affairs Manager for GenPro, elaborated: “By clearly laying out how existing statutes apply to RCWD’s project the PUC has made clear that retail customers are not limited by project size when it comes to owning behind the meter renewable generation to offset their power costs. As market-driven solutions continue to proliferate as costs fall, if utilities are unable to pass on these cost advantages to retail customers, they will increasingly seek to capture those benefits through their own energy saving projects.”

Although wind projects are extensively developed in the state, South Dakota ranks 51st in the nation in installed solar capacity, yet has the 23rd highest solar potential.