Dakota Rural Action Launches South Dakota Energy Fairness Initiative
Dakota Rural Action has launched the South Dakota Energy Fairness Initiative, a push for a fair price for South Dakotans producing energy for their neighbors and the state through small solar and wind installations. The South Dakota Energy Fairness Initiative comes out of the push in the 2013 legislative session to pass a statewide net metering policy.
“It’s about fairness and opening up what could be a thriving market in our state,” says Barb Sogn-Frank, DRA committee member in Sioux Falls. “In general, South Dakotans are all about both self-reliance and community and solar power directly supports those values. Homeowners, farmers, ranchers, and businesses who supply their own solar energy and send that good energy back to their REA or utility company should get a fair price for it.”
Distributed generation – small wind and solar installations – will be the future of energy production in this country. South Dakota is far behind the curve in establishing supportive policies for local production; without such policies, the state is losing opportunities for business development and energy security. As the state grows in population and the demand for energy grows, established technologies like solar will need to be a larger part of South Dakota’s energy portfolio.
The Energy Fairness Initiative is working on a policy that would support distributed generation while allowing for the uniqueness of South Dakota’s energy infrastructure. As a rural state, distributed generation promises cost savings and production benefits. Long transmission lines and their associated losses make it difficult and increasingly expensive to continue with centralized development alone, and the solar climate in South Dakota makes installations highly productive.
“As renewable energy equipment such as solar panels have become very affordable, convenient, and reliable, it seems wrong that we aren’t taking more advantage of South Dakota’s remarkable solar and wind resources,’ says Don Kelley, DRA board member in Nemo. “Excess electricity generated by grid-tied customers with such generating equipment is purchased by utilities at a very low rate, making the buying of the equipment harder to justify in a family’s budget. My wife and I built a system and are typically producing excess electricity beyond our needs mid-way through a sunny day – clean power that’s going to waste, and which could be helping to power our neighbors’ appliances.”
The South Dakota Energy Fairness Initiative will be hosting a series of “energy tours” around the state, where people can learn more about installing solar panels on their farm, home, or ranch; and will be working to educate South Dakotans about the real benefits of distributed generation in this state.