Here’s What Memphians Are Saying About MLGW’s Power Supply Considerations

Memphians are speaking up, saying they do not want to be tied to TVA indefinitely, but rather want MLGW to leave all options on the table right now. Here are some excerpts of recent public comments from MLGW customers about the power supply decision.

Pearl Eva Walker and Chris Carnevale | November 18, 2022 | Energy Justice, Energy Policy, Tennessee, Utilities

Brady Watson, former Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, also contributed to this blog post.

Memphis’ publicly owned utility is nearing the conclusion of a multi-year process of choosing who it will get its electricity from in the years to come. Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) has three primary choices for electricity supply: 1) leave its current supplier in favor of other suppliers; 2) continue on its existing contract with its current supplier, TVA; or 3) switch to the long term contract TVA is trying to get all its customers to sign, which would prevent Memphis from considering other options for decades to come.

This process of examining alternative power supply options began when multiple studies showed that Memphians and Shelby County residents could save hundreds of millions of dollars per year if MLGW purchased the electricity it currently is contracted to buy from TVA from other power suppliers. After reviewing proposals from possible alternative power suppliers, MLGW’s staff, including former CEO J.T. Young, and consultant decided to recommend that the MLGW Board of Commissioners sign TVA’s long term, neverending contract. But this recommendation has been made with little transparency and appears to be based on incomplete information.

TVA’s long term neverending contract would be a bad deal for Memphians. The recommendation to sign it is short-sighted, the result of a hurried process, and doesn’t take into consideration the opportunity still available for MLGW to negotiate more affordable and clean energy, reduce pollution in our communities, and improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Memphians.

Many community members do not want to be tied to TVA indefinitely, but rather prefer MLGW to leave all options on the table right now. It’s not just us at SACE saying it, but also the Memphis community. Here are some excerpts of recent public comments from MLGW customers about the power supply decision shared as written comments to the MLGW Board, at MLGW’s recent public listening sessions, and at the recent Memphis Has The Power town hall event. Some quotes are abbreviated for length or clarity.

If you have thoughts on this issue that you would like to share along with those of the community below, the MLGW board is accepting comments from the public and you can submit your own comment here.



“You call this contract evergreen. The evergreen contract in other words is neverending. We’re not talking about a tree, we’re talking about the future of Memphis. We’re talking about 7 generations down the line, we’re talking about your children’s grandchildren’s grandchildren. What kind of future are they going to have if we don’t have clean water? […] We’re not gonna have that if we keep polluting not only our water, but also the air. We have a definite problem and I want to be able to have a future in Memphis where I don’t have to stay with TVA’s never ending contract. I want a future where I can choose if we want to switch to a more efficient one. I want a future where maybe Memphis can catch up with the rest of the country and I can actually see us having a future.” -Alden Schmidt

“The only thing I want to say tonight is don’t sign the 20 year contract. There’s too much shifting and moving right now and one of the things that did not get considered at all in any of these deliberations is the new benefits and opportunities that have arisen with the Inflation Reduction Act and Memphis should be taking full advantage of that right now because the Inflation Reduction Act says hey, we’ve got all kinds of money and tax credits, benefits, direct payments available to low income people to improve the energy efficient of their homes and it says anywhere you install renewable energy that is on top of economically impoverished areas, and most of Memphis is in an economic empowerment zone, you’re gonna get increased tax credits and benefits and direct pays. […] MLGW should be looking at what kind of investments it can take, taking advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act.” – Scott Banbury

“MLGW should keep its options open instead of automatically signing up to be TVA’s customer forever. TVA’s never-ending contracts renew every year and require 20 years notice to terminate, making it practically impossible for power distributors like MLGW to leave. With a guaranteed customer base, TVA can ignore ratepayers and their desire for cheaper renewable energy options. If MLGW and city leaders decide that staying with TVA is the best option for Memphians, they should continue to use the current 5-year deal, instead of signing TVA’s perpetual contracts.” – Pearl Eva Walker

“TVA is holding Memphis hostage. It operates & owns the transmission lines and refuses to make them available for solar or other energy sources to generate in our area. TVA wants to lock us in for a huge amount of time and they are not showing any signs of converting to a safer, cleaner energy source. If anything I would not give them a contract over 5 years. Technology is changing fast and solar is becoming more affordable. WHY would we lock ourselves into a long term contract?” – Rita H.

“No long-term contract to lock citizens into. We need the opportunity to separate and entertain other proposals if they become available […]” – Annie D.

“Important to me and my grandchildren is the fact that if MLGW does not [sign TVA’s long term contract], we have the benefit of […] the ability to negotiate in the future. This must not be taken away. When MLGW did their competitive bids, those bidding did not have time to take into account the huge positive impact the inflation Reduction Act would have on their proposals. For now, say no, and wait until competitive bids can be gotten again down the road. Outside sources show potential savings of 200 million for Memphis residents. The cost impact and climate impact demand MLGW do this.” – Sara O.

“Why on Earth would we want to sign up for a never ending 20 year contract based on a ‘savings estimate’ that was calculated BEFORE the Federal government passed the Inflation Reduction Act which includes a provision of 369 Billion dollars for clean and renewable energy?!? Some of that money can and will help lower the price of solar and wind generation, and add to the development of new providers. MLGW may even be able to build our own infrastructure or generation. MLGW used to generate its own!” – Paul Klein

Pearl Eva Walker
Pearl Eva Walker is an energy justice advocate, writer, and public speaker based in Memphis, Tennessee. She is deeply involved in the Memphis community and works closely with local electeds…
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