South Dakota electric cooperatives working toward solutions

South Dakota Rural Electric Association
Farm Forum

PIERRE, S.D. – The Electric Services in an Annexed Area Study Committee, chaired by Sen. Alan Solano (R-Rapid City), held its second meeting on Aug. 28 at the State Capitol in Pierre, S.D. During the meeting, representatives of the electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities presented responses to a series of research questions that were posed by the interim committee. Time was also allowed for public testimony and the meeting ended with a discussion regarding possible solutions to the issue of territorial takings by municipal utilities.

“We believe that, when given a chance, summer studies can be an effective means of addressing complex subjects and produce workable solutions,” said South Dakota Rural Electric Association General Manager Ed Anderson. “We also believe the important work of the committee and the integrity of the process is best served when participants on all sides of an issue are committed to working together to find solutions. We are committed to working with the committee to find a sustainable solution to a real problem.”

Current law allows municipal governments to expand their electric service boundaries and take territory from incumbent electric providers. Electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities (IOU), on the other hand, must collaborate and agree upon changes in service territory between the two. These differences in state law favor government taking of private enterprise.

“This issue is not about annexation. As we said in the first hearing, we support annexation,” said Anderson. “Annexation and the taking of service territory of an incumbent utility are not tied together. There are too many examples of successful growth without a municipal electric system to think otherwise. The continued vitality of cities large and small all across South Dakota is important to electric cooperatives.”

The Electric Services in an Annexed Area Study Committee is now seeking to bring all parties together and find workable solutions to the inequities that exist in current state law.

“All parties are in agreement that we have very, very good high-quality electric service,” Sen. Solano said during the August 28 hearing. “Good people in South Dakota can sit down and work through a lot of things.”

In addition to Sen. Solano, the committee members are Rep. Thomas Brunner (R-Nisland), Vice Chair; Rep. Shawn Bordeaux (D-Mission); Rep. Kirk Chaffee (R-Whitewood); Rep. Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham); Rep. Tim Reed (R-Brookings); Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown); Sen. Susan Wismer (D-Britton); and Sen. Jordan Youngberg (R-Chester).

The next hearing of the interim committee will be held in October or November.