Head of MLGW calls for indefinite halt on search for new power provider

MLGW CEO recommends tabling search for new power source

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A long-running debate about who provides power for Memphis Light, Gas and Water customers could soon come to an end.

The head of MLGW is calling for an indefinite halt to the search for a new power provider.

MLGW has been a Tennessee Valley Authority customer for over 80 years. Making a decision to leave has been a debate for several years now.

On Wednesday, the head of the utility company says it’s time to put that debate aside for now and focus on the real problem -- infrastructure.

As thousands in West Tennessee dealt with the snow one thing Mid-Southerners didn’t have to deal with was widespread power outages.

Something celebrated through a TV ad featuring MLGW and TVA that ran just days after the winter blast.

“I can’t say that the events of the last couple of weeks haven’t had an influence or an impact. I think it just may be brought to reality,” said MLGW President and CEO JT Young,

On Wednesday, Young recommended to the MLGW Board of Commissioners that they indefinitely suspend the pursuit of RFP’s or request for proposals for other power supply and instead, continue to work with TVA and focus on infrastructure -- completing all upgrades prior to the end of 2024.

MLGW’s long history with outdated infrastructure did rear its ugly head during the recent winter weather.

Related | MLGW customers relieved after Boil Water Notice lifted

Some wells that delivered the water to the reservoir failed which was part of the reason customers had to boil their water for several days.

MLGW issues precautionary boil water advisory (5)

“I do agree with chairman Young it’s time for us to move forward and get this 5-year plan behind us and get our community and infrastructure updated,” said Memphis City Councilwoman Patrice Robinson

Robinson chairs the council’s MLGW committee.

In the fall the full council did not approve of hiring GDS associates to go out in the market to find prices for power.

“I think MLGW still needs that information, even if they decide to go back and reconsider negotiating a contract with TVA, they are going to be in a stronger position and have more information if they have RFP information provided to them,” said Stephen Smith with the Southern Alliance for Cleaner Energy.

Smith says MLGW is leaving too much money on the table.

Studies have shown millions of dollars a year could be saved by leaving TVA and with the costs of replacing the aging infrastructure, Smith says Young should consider the potential savings.

“I promise you there will be more rate hikes on the way, there are a lot of infrastructure needs,” said Smith.

But Young says for right now sticking with a proven energy provider is the best decision.

“So what we have to remember is that electricity is not a commodity, it’s a necessity,” said Young.

Staying with TVA is not a final decision, in fact, the MLGW board can reject Young’s recommendations.

Young did offer some alternate options including resubmitting a request to the council.

The board has two weeks to decide.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.