MLGW considers cost-cutting move of scrapping TVA as provider

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Light, Gas & Water is trying to decide its energy plan for the future, which would impact your future utility bill.

MLGW leaders listened to a three-hour presentation Friday, hearing from consultants who analyzed all options and from an energy provider that would like to replace the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“I would anticipate a late July-August time frame is what we’re looking at, but that’s still fluid as are most things are right now,” MLGW President J.T. Young said during the online meeting.

The utility has repeatedly been hounded to dump the TVA and provide better service at a cheaper cost.

The disembodied voices from behind the virtual display Friday seemed to suggest it’s possible.

“Four portfolios appeared to perform best across all of the objectives, meaning low cost, low risk, high reliability, high resilience and high sustainability,” said Gary Vicinus, project director for the study.

For the last 80 years, MLGW has been in a monogamous relationship with the TVA.

But now many on the city council and elsewhere are suggesting Memphis can do better, like $450 million a year better, if you believe an online campaign. That could be a significant upgrade.

“The savings that we are going to show you today are lower than some of the estimates that  have been quoted in the press,” Vicinus said.

The consultants believe the savings are closer $150 million per year but still billions over the lifetime of an agreement.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) believes they’d make a perfect match.

“MISO’s goal is to ensure electricity is delivered reliably at the lowest cost,” Melissa Seymour with MISO said.

MISO is one of the nation’s largest power providers. Its coverage reaches from the Gulf of Mexico up to Canada and currently serves 42 million customers.

MISO prides itself in “keeping the lights on” and saving the customer money.

“MISO provides about $3.6 billion in annual economic benefits to the region; cumulative savings since 2009 are estimated at approximately $27 billion,” Seymour said.

But in any relationship, cost is just one factor.  

The consultants also analyzed reliability and gave points to the TVA.

The utility has to look at affordability, sustainability and the overall 20-year economic impact on the city.

A final decision could ultimately rest in the hands of the Memphis City Council.

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