After complaining about delays in the process to find a possible new power partner for Memphis, Light, Gas & Water (MLGW), the MLGW board delayed a vote Wednesday to further the process.
MLGW leaders are shopping for a professional firm to help them find possible alternatives to getting power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The move comes after nearly two years spent studying and developing an integrated resource plan (IRP). That plan aimed to show how MLGW could possibly move away from TVA and whether or not the move could save MLGW and its customers millions of dollars, as many agencies have said.
MLGW leaders brought the board their recommended company for the job — GDS Associates — on Wednesday morning. The group would help MLGW get requests for proposals (RFPs) from qualified companies that could help MLGW find appropriate partners for power.
A presentation on finding a potential new power partner to board members promised a timeline that ran through 2021. Board members wondered why the process would take so long.
“We’ve already spent a fortune on the IRP and other things and now we’re going spend more (time) to develop an RFP,” said board vice chairman Mitch Graves. “”Can we stop studying and push this thing forward?”
Board member Steven Wishnia said GDS was involved in creating the IRP and said another consulting firm claimed the RFP could be ready in three to six months.
“If (GDS has) already looked into this, why is it taking so long,” Wishnia asked. “We’ve been dragging this out for — what? — two years already?”
But MLGW leaders urged caution and patience in the process, noting that at the end of it, MLGW may give notice to TVA that it would no longer be its largest customer. MLGW president and CEO J.T. Young said all the proposals they received showed a timeline through next year.
Young said he understood “the prolonged nature” of the entire process so far but asked if the board could reset their expectations on the remainder of the process. During his career in utilities, he said, “fast gets you into trouble.”
“As we go through this, maybe at the end of the day, we may determine that we don’t move and do something different,” he said. “We may and we may not. But we have to make sure the optimal option is on the table for our customers.”
Board members then wrangled over the scope of the contract. They wanted to ensure it covered a broad scope of options and that it clarified what they envisioned as far as investing in transmission lines and a building a generation station.
In the end, the board member delayed the vote until the full MLGW board meeting next week.