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South Dakotans grow frustrated waiting for state to apply for $69 million in energy rebate funding


South Dakotans grow frustrated waiting for state to apply for $69 million in energy rebate funding

May 24, 2024 | 5:30 pm ET
By Joshua Haiar
South Dakotans grow frustrated waiting for state to apply for $69 million in energy rebate funding
Electric heat pumps are among the eligible items in the Home Energy Rebates program. (Getty Images)

Kelly Moore, of Piedmont, planned to leverage a federal rebate program to cover 30% of the cost of his new $10,000 energy-efficient heat pump.

But he said Statewide Energy Manager Chris Gukeisen told him he has to wait. 

“What Chris told me is they’re going to wait until January, after the elections,” Moore said. “I mean, come on. Really?”

The Home Energy Rebates program is funded with $9 billion from the federal Inflation Reduction Act. The program provides rebates for energy-efficient home retrofits and high-efficiency electric home appliances. South Dakota’s allocation is $68.56 million. There’s also $225 million in the program for Native American tribes.

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The deadline for states to apply for their funding from the U.S. Department of Energy is Jan. 31, 2025. Sixteen states have already applied or been approved. The application must include how states plan to implement and oversee the program, targeted outcomes and objectives, eligibility criteria, and outreach and compliance reporting plans.

Meanwhile, a May 31 deadline is approaching for state energy offices to apply for early administrative funding. Up to 2.5% of a state’s allocated funding is available to help them plan their rebate programs. Twenty-five states or territories have received $74.2 million of early funding.

Moore recently sought an update on the state’s plans from Gukeisen, who works in the Energy Management Office with the state Bureau of Administration. In an email reply to Moore, Gukeisen wrote, “We are not applying for the early administrative funds, and we are still working on a plan for the program.”

Moore and some other South Dakotans are aggravated. South Dakota Searchlight has received multiple emails from people wondering about the status of the rebates.

“I was in a little bit of disbelief, but also, that sounds like our state government,” Moore said. 

He was referring to Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s penchant for avoiding some federal funding opportunities, including solar energy and climate change grant programs and a summer food program for children. 

Rick Bell, of Rapid City and president of Sustainable Environmental Energy Engineering LLC, shares Moore’s sentiment. 

“This is just a continuation of the same behavior we’ve seen out of the Governor’s Office,” he said. “They’re not focused on South Dakota.” 

Neither Gukeisen nor the Governor’s Office responded to South Dakota Searchlight inquiries Friday, after Searchlight spoke to Gukeisen in March.

“The Governor’s Office staff, it’s kind of in their hands,” he said at that time, while advising Searchlight to inquire again during the summer. 

If fully implemented, the Department of Energy estimates the rebates would save U.S. households up to $1 billion annually.