10 Key Questions to Ask as Memphis Considers Future of Electricity Supply

Maggie Shober, Chris Carnevale, and Pearl Eva Walker | June 6, 2022 | Tennessee, Utilities

On June 9 Memphis City Council will join the Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) Board of Commissioners for a joint meeting to hear a presentation summarizing the proposals MLGW has received in response to its request for proposals (RFP) for alternative power supply and transmission to connect to the MISO electricity market. The meeting will take place from 9 AM – 12 PM Central Time at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library, 3030 Poplar Ave. in Memphis. The meeting is open to the public and will be live-streamed on MLGW’s YouTube page.

MLGW, the municipally-owned utility that serves Memphis, has spent the last several years evaluating the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings if MLGW ends its contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and procures electricity from a variety of other sources. This process will culminate this week when the actual projects proposed to supply Memphis with power are summarized for the two decision-making bodies.

To verify potential savings, MLGW issued a set of three RFPs for resources to be assembled into portfolios that can meet Memphis’ needs:

  1. Transmission to connect to the MISO electricity market
  2. Thermal generation (i.e. power plants)
  3. Renewable/other generation (i.e. solar)

MLGW hired a consultant, GDS Associates, to run the RFPs, which were released last July, August, and September, respectively. GDS has been evaluating responses to those RFPs since the last submission deadline in February and will present preliminary findings of their evaluations to the MLGW board and Memphis City Council this Thursday.

While we have been following MLGW’s alternative power supply process closely for years, we do not know what GDS and MLGW will present this week. However, we’ve compiled a list of 10 key topics we will be looking for during the presentation.

1. Cost savings for Memphians

How much money could Memphis save by switching to new power suppliers? Memphians have some of the most unaffordable energy bills of major cities across the country, so cost reductions could be hugely beneficial to Memphis families.

2. Environmental benefits

How much do the presented portfolios decrease power plant pollution? MLGW’s integrated resource plan (IRP) indicated that new electricity portfolios could lower MLGW’s carbon footprint by 10-38% by increasing the usage of solar energy.

3. The role of energy efficiency

Have MLGW and GDS planned for large increases in energy-saving energy efficiency and weatherization measures in assembling energy portfolios? Measures like these could lower Memphians’ bills and reduce the need for investments in power plants and grid infrastructure.

4. Local economic development

Would the RFP bidders’ proposals lead to local capital investments, jobs, or tax revenue?

5. Local solar

How much solar energy would be developed in Shelby County and nearby? Is it enough? Is it too much? Would local solar be all utility-scale, or is there room for rooftop and community solar? Where would local solar be developed?

6. Solar and wind from MISO

How much solar would be procured from the MISO market? How much wind energy would be procured from the MISO market? The variety provided by pairing wind with solar as different types of generation resources helps balance the variability of each source. MISO is big and has a lot of wind-rich areas, but there needs to be transmission to bring it to Memphis when wind energy is available.

7. Reliance on gas

How much reliance on gas power has MLGW and GDS planned for? MLGW customers shouldn’t be at risk of paying for volatile high gas prices, so gas reliance should be kept at a minimum while maximizing clean and cost-effective energy efficiency, renewables, and storage. Have the significant increases in gas price forecasts since MLGW did its IRP been reflected in GDS’s analysis of the bids?

8. Timeline and details for transmission

How long would the transmission infrastructure to connect to the MISO market take to build? Is the project timeline realistic? Who would build the transmission infrastructure, who would own it, and what would it cost?

9. Flexibility with bidders’ terms

TVA wants Memphis to enter a practically never-ending 20-year contract that renews every day. Do bidders’ terms give Memphis more flexibility than the status quo with TVA? This question is especially important going into this era of rapid clean energy innovation.

10. Potential impacts of U.S. Dept. of Commerce solar case

Have the impacts of the U.S. Department of Commerce trade investigation into solar imports been reflected in the RFP process? This case wasn’t known when suppliers submitted their bids to MLGW, so it could complicate the negotiation process and could slow down potential solar projects in the near term. But since the Biden administration took action today, June 6, to begin resolution of this issue, any temporary uncertainty caused by the case shouldn’t be allowed to derail the RFP process.


Memphis Has the Power is a campaign to ensure Memphians have affordable, equitable, and clean energy. The campaign has worked in the Memphis community for several years, backstopped by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Our work has lifted up Memphians who struggle with unaffordable energy bills and has helped result in large increases in funding to help Memphians with lower incomes reduce their energy bills. SACE is an appointed member of MLGW’s Power Supply Advisory Team, the community advisory team that helped shape MLGW’s integrated resource plan.

Maggie Shober
Maggie Shober works to speed the clean energy transformation in the Southeast through analysis and advocacy. She has expertise in renewable energy, energy efficiency, coal retirements, energy market modeling, and…
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