MGLW staff recommendation limits options for Memphis and Shelby County by locking citizens into a narrow future for energy supply 

SACE calls on MLGW Board, Mayor, and City Council to examine the alternative power supply options with due diligence

September 1, 2022
Contact: Amy Rawe, SACE, 865-235-1448, [email protected]

Memphis, TN — Today, Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) staff made a recommendation to its Board of Commissioners to lock the utility and its ratepayers into a forever contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) rather than remain on its current, more flexible, five-year contract with TVA or pursue alternative sources of energy supply that could result in numerous economic and environmental benefits for Memphis.  

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) strongly disagrees with the MLGW staff recommendation, and we’re confident it’s not in the best interest of MLGW customers. We look forward to reviewing the proposals and the assumptions that were presented with TVA’s forever contract, which in reality poses significant short- and long-term risks that were not presented today. 

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “We disagree with the recommendation MLGW staff presented to the MLGW Board of Commissioners and look forward to finally being able to see the responses to the MLGW power supply proposal. We are concerned that today’s presentation was highly skewed and lacked an appropriate balance of risk and benefits. We look forward to reviewing the underlying data that these assumptions were built on.”

Memphians bear some of the most unaffordable energy bills of major cities across the country, as TVA consistently underperforms in providing energy affordability programs and fails to deploy significant clean energy resources for all of its customers. In addition to the longer-term environmental and economic benefits alternative suppliers could deliver, the recently-enacted federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) would greatly amplify alternative portfolios’ estimated savings and energy resiliency benefits. The MLGW Board and Memphis City Council need to take the time to fully assess the IRA’s benefits, which could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Memphis if MLGW is not restricted by TVA’s contract requirements. Additionally, care should be given to not confuse short-term high renewables prices due to current transient factors with longer-term low-cost forecasts. 

Maggie Shober, SACE’s Research Director, said, “Renewable prices are higher today than they were six months ago because of a unique convergence of issues that are not expected to continue. With such high stakes and such great need in Memphis and Shelby County, MLGW and local leaders must not make a decision that would have long-lasting impacts based on these short-term factors. It’s important that MLGW take the time to assess longer-term clean energy market trends and impacts of the federal Inflation Reduction Act benefits available to the Memphis community and MLGW.”

SACE is calling for the MLGW Board, and the Memphis Mayor and City Council to examine the alternative power supply options with due diligence and not simply accept the flawed assumptions made by MGLW staff and their consultant, GDS Associates.

Maintaining the option of switching energy suppliers from TVA, MLGW could bring Shelby County billions of dollars of capital investment, numerous well-paying clean energy jobs, improve the reliability of the power system and build resilience against blackouts, and offer transformational affordability programs like low-income weatherization and energy efficiency. By simply staying on its existing five-year contract, MLGW would have the opportunity to refresh bids and re-examine the savings available by switching energy suppliers as new information comes to light now or in the future.

MLGW is allowing at least 30 days for public comments on its plan. We at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy look forward to evaluating the alternative power supply proposals and offering information and analysis so that any decision of this magnitude can be made knowing that no stone was left unturned.


About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible and equitable energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at