South Dakota and net metering – what’s next?

badlands sabrinaWith the failure of our net metering proposal at the legislature, it is an understandable question – what is next for net metering in South Dakota?

Well, there are a couple answers. And, I am actually quite heartened at some of the options we have on the table as we move more fully into 2013 and put together a new campaign to promote small renewable energy production in our state.

First, net metering is still on the table as a viable policy. As we have gone through the legislative session with our bill, we have heard the objections against net metering and we know most of the objections are based on false notions of what happens when this kind of policy is adopted. A lot of what we need to do is simply educate – correct those incorrect notions and bring people along with us in understanding. But there have also been some very legitimate objections brought up, and we have the opportunity to find common ground and to have conversations about the best way to move policy forward in South Dakota. And, those with concerns have expressed their willingness to come to the table. Often, I have found, that the more really is the merrier. I think we can come up with an even better, more comprehensive proposal as we meet with those opponents.

Second, we have opened up the opportunity to have a larger conversation about small renewable energy production in South Dakota. This year there has been a great deal of support for large wind production facilities. We think there is room for support of small energy producers. This is how things are going to have to work in the future – widespread energy production from a large number of sources. Small renewables factor into that future in a big way. Community solar projects, smart metering, buy-in programs; all options need to be discussed if we are going to be serious about meeting our energy needs with our own energy production.

And third, we have commitments from all the players to have these discussions. This is not something we have had before. Before, it has been simply “no, no, and no, thanks.” Now, we have organizations on record saying they’ll come to the table to talk. Now, we have REAs, utilities, and municipal electrics in a position where they understand this is something the people of South Dakota are asking for. Some kind of small renewable policy is inevitable. And, they can either come to the table to discuss what that policy looks like, or they can be dealt the hand they are given. We think they’d rather come to the table.

Sometimes just having the discussion is enough. Sometimes, you really need to get a policy on the books. We are at the point where we need to get a policy on the books. Net metering has a high enough profile that we are confident within the next year we will be able to do just that. We are encouraged by the support coming out of the woodwork, and excited about the work we have ahead of us. South Dakota has the potential to produce all its own energy, to be diverse enough that we can be the energy bread basket of the world. It will take a variety of methods to make that happen.

We intend to lead out those conversations – and we’re pretty darn excited about it.

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