Municipal Electrics

There are three types of electric service providers in South Dakota: investor own utilities (IOUs), municipal electrics, and rural electric cooperatives. The PUC has significant regulatory authority relating to IOUs.  PUC authority for municipals and rural cooperatives is limited to service quality and territory boundary issues.  In municipalities the governing body or an appointed utility board manages the electric service.  Citizens of the municipality have input on how the utility is operated through their elected municipal officials.

Most municipal electrics receive their wholesale power from either Heartland Consumers Power District headquartered in Madison or Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) headquartered in Sioux Falls. While these two organizations have different governing structures and service territories, their goals are the same: supply reliable power to their municipal customers at as low a price as possible, encourage energy efficiency programs, and promote economic development in their municipalities.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a portion of Missouri River’s annual meeting. Much of the program that day was devoted to outlining some of the projects Missouri River is undertaking to supplement their existing electric supply with renewable resources.

The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project is currently under construction. This new hydroelectric facility is placing a 36.4 MW generator in the existing Red Rock Dam near Pella, IA and is scheduled for completion in early 2018.  This hydroelectric power will supplement hydro power allocations from the Missouri River dams which comprises a large portion of the current MRES power supply.

The MRES program also included a presentation on a new 1 MW solar facility that will be built in Pierre. The project will use five acres of land near the airport to construct what will be the largest solar generation facility in South Dakota.  The commitment of MRES to this size project is a strong indication that utility scale solar projects are becoming an economical source of electric generation.