MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you feel like your power has been going out more often than usual lately, it’s not your imagination, the head of Memphis Light Gas & Water says.
“In the last 18 months, we’ve had the same number of customer interruptions as we’ve had in the past 10 years,” MLGW President and CEO Doug McGowen told WREG on Tuesday.
Now the utility is working hard on a plan to turn those problems around.
“Our customers deserve more reliable power, day to day. We know our reliability, day to day has really not been where it should be,” McGowen said.
The problem of aging infrastructure has been made worse by the number and severity of storms recently.
MLGW is in the process of upgrading substations to make them more reliable, replacing old equipment, and adding or replacing some underground lines.
“Back when some of this infrastructure was built, we didn’t have central air conditioning in some of our neighborhoods, and so we need to really modernize that,” he said.
The utility is also getting aggressive on tree trimming all over the city, using satellite, GPS and drones to show them where trees are intersecting power lines.
And it is moving to a “smart grid” that will allow the electrical system to respond to changes in electrical demand, like a tree down on one line or an overloaded circuit.
MLGW is focused heavily on Orange Mound right now, an area with some of the lowest electrical reliability, McGowen said.
Lastly, McGowen addressed a problem thousands of customers have experienced recently — not receiving a monthly bill, or receving exceptionally high bills. What should customers do in those cases?
McGowen said about 38,000 meters out of more than 1 million in the MLGW system have a register problem, and the company is replacing them. The issue should mostly be fixed by the end of this year, he said.
Until then, customers should pay MLGW what they would expect to pay in a normal month, based on past usage.