PUC 'green lights' two sets of utilities' economic reports

PIERRE -- Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy received regulatory approval Thursday for their 2016 economic development reports and 2017 economic development plans.

PIERRE - Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy received regulatory approval Thursday for their 2016 economic development reports and 2017 economic development plans.

The state Public Utilities Commission accepted the two sets of summaries from the investor-owned companies on separate 3-0 votes.

The economic development spending reflects individual agreements reached between each of the companies and the commission.

Black Hills Energy, headquartered at Rapid City, filed its first round of information Feb. 28. Xcel Energy, based in Sioux Falls, filed its initial information March 16.

Both companies subsequently submitted additional data in response to PUC staff requests.


Black Hills Energy has deleted a $50,000 line item from its 2017 plan. The money previously covered $50,000 of contributions in 2016 to Black Hills Vision, a non-profit organization representing more than 100 businesses.

The $50,000 will instead go into a grant fund for 2017.

It would have included the final $37,500 installment of Black Hills Energy's $150,000 commitment to Black Hills Vision. The $150,000 was to be paid over four years.

But because the non-profit achieved the first two phases of its development plan, its directors suspended the third phase. Black Hills Vision didn't send a 2017 invoice to Black Hills Energy.

Black Hills Energy spent $117,066 on economic development in 2016. It had budgeted $116,000. The 2017 plan calls for Black Hills Energy to spend $118,450 - but none of it for Black Hills Vision.

"Obviously, there's a pretty major shift away from the Black Hills Vision expenditure," commissioner Chris Nelson said.

Nelson said Black Hills Energy would be "running blind" for the year but he is willing to allow it. The company plans instead to spend more for grants.

Xcel Energy budgeted $100,000 for its 2016 economic development plan and spent $100,000. The company plans to spend $100,000 again in 2017.


Eric Pauli, Xcel's community-relations manager, said in a supplemental response to PUC staff that none of the $100,000 in 2016 was for lobbying.

He further said none of the $100,000 budgeted for 2017 would be for lobbying.

The reason Xcel Energy spent only a portion of the budgeted dollars for the Governor's Office of Economic Development certified-ready sites program was because there were no other applicants for the 2016 calendar year, Pauli said.

"Without these contributions, properties in the communities we serve may never be looked at as potential building locations," Pauli told PUC staff in a second response.

Pauli noted GOED has a Sept. 1 deadline this year for contributions to the certified-ready program. "If the allotted dollars are not utilized by this date, then they will be reverted back to the rural community support for the calendar year," he said.

The commission has an economic development filing pending from NorthWestern Energy that the company submitted March 31.

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