Presentation to MGLW and Memphis City Council Overly Focused on Risks and Downplayed Benefits of Leaving TVA

More information is needed on long-term economic and environmental benefits to Memphians

June 9, 2022
Contact: Kate Tracy, SACE, 865-235-1448, [email protected]

Memphis, TN — Today, Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) leadership and its consultants, GDS Associates, Inc., met with Memphis City Councilmembers and the MLGW Board of Commissioners to present a summary of the proposals received in response to its Request for Proposals (RFP) for the evaluation of power supply options.

While the presentation today was informative and we appreciated the engagement of GDS, MLGW staff and Board, and Memphis City Councilmembers, the presentation lacked key information that is essential for fully informing the public before the monumental decision is made of whether or not to leave TVA that could better serve Memphians.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said“Today the public expected a full evaluation of the RFP and what we got was a master class in risk exposure. GDS’s presentation overemphasized the downside risks and failed to balance with the upside benefits. Memphis needs to be eyes wide open about the risks involved with leaving TVA, but with any opportunity comes risks. Let’s not lose sight of the generational opportunities available to MGLW through alternative energy suppliers.”

Staying with TVA comes with its own risks for Memphians too: If MLGW signed TVA’s proposed long-term partnership agreement, that local power companies across the Valley have had little choice but to sign, it would lock Memphis into a practically never-ending contract and leave Memphis with the burden of TVA’s costs. On the other hand, if Memphis were to leave TVA and build and invest in its own transmission lines — while initially expensive — it would act as a down payment on Memphis controlling its destiny. The benefits are generating local economic development and accessing lower-cost, high-reliability, environmentally cleaner energy than what TVA is willing or able to offer.

Maggie Shober, Research Director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “In addition to the savings over the next ten or twenty years, MLGW needs to consider the freedom that comes from being out from under TVA. As the sector continues to change, MLGW customers would benefit from MLGW being able to adapt to future changes.”

Highlighting the generational effect this historic decision will have on Memphis, Pearl Eva Walker, Organizer with Memphis Has the Power, a campaign of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “Although I’m disappointed in that there was no public comment, I’m still excited that this took place and public access was allowed. Our decision-makers are about to make some historic and important decisions regarding our energy future that will affect us, our children, and our children’s children. The citizens deserve as much information and transparency surrounding this as possible. We are looking forward to the public portal MLGW plans to set up and will be encouraging our members to engage in the process as it moves forward.” 

SACE urges MLGW leadership and Memphis City Council to continue moving forward with due diligence in the evaluation process of alternative energy supply options that could better serve the people of Memphis and Shelby County for decades to come. Additionally, our technical staff plans to review what was presented today and consider the risks of leaving TVA within a broader context of the benefits of leaving, and also risks of staying with TVA, and we will continue to encourage public participation in this process.

There will be upcoming opportunities for public input and continued questions for the MLGW Board and City Council members. MLGW staff is tentatively scheduled to make a recommendation to the Board on August 17, followed by a Board vote tentatively set for September 21.

Watch the presentation.

View the presentation slide deck.

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

About the Memphis Has The Power
Memphis Has The Power is a campaign to ensure Memphians have affordable, equitable, and clean energy. Memphis Has The Power has lifted up Memphians who struggle with unaffordable energy bills and advocated for large increases in funding to help Memphians with lower incomes reduce their energy bills through advocating for energy efficiency and home weatherization programs.