The Investigators: MLGW reconsiders relationship with TVA as power remains steady during winter storm

Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:44 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Most MLGW customers have continued to have power since the winter weather rolled into the Mid-South on Sunday.

The Tennessee Valley Authority supplies power to MLGW and takes credit for keeping the lights on.

“I think the events of this week speak for themselves,” said Scott Brooks, TVA spokesperson. “The reliability we’ve had for the last two decades - 99.99% reliability - still continues even with this drastic winter weather.”

According to Brooks, the agency has not experienced any forced blackouts or brownouts, and has had no major outages.

“Could a massive outage, like the one in Texas, happen here?” The Investigators asked Alonzo Weaver, Senior Vice President of Memphis Light Gas and Water.

“It has not happened here. TVA has been a strong provider of power. Fortunately, it’s weathered through this weather event quite well,” said Weaver.

MLGW has expressed interest in leaving the TVA for another power source.

“Do you think you all will leave the TVA after seeing what’s been going on over the last couple of days?”

“It certainly gives you pause,” said Weaver. “We’ve had very reliable and stable supply from TVA. I know people in Arkansas and Mississippi are not having a great time about it. Texas is in terrible shape.”

More: MLGW boil water advisory now in effect for City of Memphis

However, Memphis businessman Karl Schledwitz and founder of the public advocacy group $450M for Memphis maintains leaving the TVA would save MLGW customers $450 million.

“The big picture, folks, is if we leave our utility bills will go down up to 40%. The reliability is the same,” said Schledwitz.

Schledwitz wants MLGW to unplug from the TVA’s power supply and hook up to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).

Entergy customers in Arkansas and Mississippi are supplied power through MISO.

Earlier this week, MISO asked customers to conserve power. Then, Tuesday night, there were forced outages in both Arkansas and Mississippi, including 3,000 customers in Southaven.

“How reliable is MISO in Entergy’s eyes right now?” Asked The Investigators.

“MISO has been very reliable for us,” said Mara Hartmann with Entergy Mississippi. “Largely it’s brought tremendous savings to our customers. So there have been many, many benefits to being a member of MISO.”

Hartmann says, power is normally shuffled from the Southern states to the North during winter months. However, the South now needs that additional power, which caused those forced outages.

“This has been weather driven. It’s not a factor of MISO’s reliability,” said Hartmann.

The TVA did experience a power outage Monday in Kentucky but said it was due to an equipment issue, not a system-wide failure.

Unlike Texas, the agency generates power from multiple sources including coal, nuclear energy, natural gas and renewable energy.

Texas mostly relies on natural gas and wind energy, both of which have struggled during the freeze.

“We have a very diverse mix of generating sources,” said Brooks, who added that a system-wide failure isn’t likely.

The TVA said during a normal winter, up to 24,000 megawatts of electricity will be used. This winter there has been up to 29,000 megawatts used. The system can handle up to 36,000 megawatts of electricity.

A failure isn’t likely for Entergy customers either, though they are still being asked to conserve power as much as possible.

If you’re an Entergy customer, you’re asked to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees or below and don’t use space heaters if you can help it.

MLGW is not asking customers to conserve power at this time.

MLGW said it usually reaches its peak in the summer, with 3,300 megawatts of electricity used. So far this winter, 2,200 megawatts have been used.

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