State lawmakers miss opportunity to invest in rural communities

The South Dakota Legislature recently adjourned its 2019 legislative session. In Pierre, lawmakers considered a variety of policies that impact the state’s growing clean energy industry.

Lawmakers failed to advance House Bill (HB) 1090, which would have allowed businesses, nonprofits, and agricultural operators access to low-cost, long-term funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and water conservation projects. HB 1090 sought to establish a voluntary commercial property assessed clean energy (C-PACE) program, a version of which already exists in 36 other states. Businesses and nonprofits came out in support, agreeing that C-PACE can be a key tool in encouraging businesses to invest locally, create new jobs, and use the local workforce to make energy-saving improvements to new or existing buildings.

Policies that alter local community involvement during project siting were also under consideration. Senate Bill 15, a bill to modify the renewable energy project permitting process, awaits the governor’s signature. Community involvement is important for helping rural communities realize their clean energy potential, which is demonstrated through new tax revenue, jobs, and payments to landowners. When rural folks are involved early in the process, their communities are empowered to embrace this change.

Renewable energy will continue to grow in South Dakota as the cost of production falls. Legislators should work to remove unnecessary barriers to this growth. In doing so, projects must be built in a way that works best for the communities that host them.