Sunday, February 12, 2017

South Dakota utilities still reaping profits from grid moral hazard

Disaster declaration results from the Christmas 2016 storms that hit much of South Dakota are enriching Butte Electric, Grand Electric and others...again.
The affected counties include Butte, Clark, Codington, Day, Deuel, Dewey, Edmunds, Fall River, Faulk, Grant, Haakon, Hamlin, Harding, Jackson, Jones, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Pennington, Perkins, Roberts, Stanley, Sully, and Ziebach. The disaster declaration also covers the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in Dewey and Ziebach Counties and the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Jackson County. [Butte County Post]
The South Dakota Republican Party owns the state's public utilities commission so this is how red states finance infrastructure improvements while bitching about Big Government.

Several utilities are based in South Dakota because of the state's regressive tax structure: Northwestern Energy and Black Hills Power among them.

Ice storms routinely knock out electric power on reservations sometimes resulting in lost lives even as microgrid technologies enhance tribal sovereignty and free communities from electric monopolies.

Self-reliance or moral hazard?
Officials say five electric cooperatives are using state and federal disaster funds to bury hundreds of miles of power lines to protect against widespread outages from storms. The cooperatives are burying more than 530 miles of line damaged in a powerful storm that struck 14 western South Dakota counties last year. Officials say the cost of the line-burying project is estimated at more than $32 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying 75 percent of the cost. The state provided 10 percent and the cooperatives paid the remaining 15 percent. [Associated Press]
That 10% the state kicked in also came from the feds.


Remember, too, that these utilities are not Google or Facebook. They are not accustomed to a state of constant market turmoil and reinvention. This is a venerable old boys network, working very comfortably within a business model that has been around, virtually unchanged, for a century.--David Roberts at Grist
In 2010, some of the state's American Indian nations were left without power for many weeks because utility companies have succumbed to the moral hazards of disaster declarations that pay them to replace ice-downed power transmission lines year after year.

Now, it's happening again but this time white people are being put upon.

The grid is exceedingly vulnerable to attack and the federal costs of replacing infrastructure every year could finance every West River subscriber's self-sufficiency.

Horizontal axis turbines wired into the grid kill birds, bats and enrich power companies. For the cost of subsidizing, manufacturing, erecting and maintaining just one of these leviathans a thousand homes could be taken off the grid.

Get off the grid before the grid gets off you.

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