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MLGW gives OK to speed up process of getting energy-supplier proposals

Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division President J. T. Young now has the approval of the utility’s board to quicken the process of hiring a consultant to help attract proposals that could lead to a new power supplier.

MLGW President/CEO J.T. Young.

At a meeting Wednesday, MLGW’s commissioners let Young know he had their approval to hire the consultant without going through every aspect of the normal of process. That move came after several registered their concerns about what already has been a lengthy process of deciding whether to stick with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as the city’s power supplier or take its business elsewhere.

“We don’t want to move fast or wrong,” Young said. “Of course, we will do all we can to accommodate moving as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

A request-for-proposals process embraced by Young was projected to have extended into October. A majority of the board’s members are looking to have a consultant selected before September runs its course.

TVA has been MLGW’s power source for 80 years.

Receiving bids from multiple energy suppliers will allow Memphis to “ground truth to the findings” that savings would amount to “at least $120 million dollars, and up to several hundred million dollars annually,” if MLGW were to break from TVA, Young said.

In a statement released later, TVA officials said the power supplier respects and supports MLGW’s decision to pursue RFPs as it looks to its long-term energy supplier.

“We are excited about the opportunity to engage in the RFP process – put the facts on the table – and prove that TVA in partnership with MLGW is the best option for the people of Memphis and Shelby County,” the statement read.

“When it comes to energy costs, Memphis starts from a position of strength. In partnership with TVA, MLGW today provides the third-lowest energy costs in the nation among its peers. TVA’s commitment is to keep energy costs stable over the next decade.”

An Integrated Resource Plan made public in early August gave a projection of what a switch of power supplies might mean for Memphis. It was presented to the Memphis City Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), called Wednesday’s meeting by the MLGW a “shot across the bow,” signaling that MLGW is “setting the stage to break loose from TVA’s dictatorial, long-term contract arrangements.”

In its released statement, TVA stressed a recently announced plan to deliver “$2 billion in value to the people of Memphis focused on investing in core communities, regional economic development, and addressing energy burden challenges for small businesses and residential customers.

“These are real, tangible investments, not hypothetical figures in a study,” the TVA statement asserted. “These are commitments TVA will deliver, not unbacked promises.”

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