Big changes are coming at Memphis Light, Gas, and Water to cut down on the number of customers who lose power when the winds blow and the skies open.
Tuesday morning, MLGW President J.T. Young, who has been on the job about 4 months, promised the Memphis City Council a bold infrastructure improvement plan, later this year.
It’s a hot and timely topic after more than 70,000 customers lost their power from 5 different storms in recent weeks.
The price tag, and impact on your MLGW bill to help pay for it, isn’t known yet. But the MLGW President said what is known is the need for substantial work soon to ensure a stronger power system long-term.
“It’s been an eventful few weeks, impacted a lot of customers,” said Alonzo Weaver with MLGW.
Between June 23rd and July 5th, Mother Nature’s fury toppled trees, blew over power lines, and left tens of thousands temporarily in the dark across Shelby County.
“A little unusual for the amount of wind gusts we’ve been getting,” said Weaver.
In the aftermath of that cluster of 5 storms, MLGW leaders are giving their power system a hard look at ways to strengthen it.
“So much of our infrastructure is 40-plus years-old. You can maintain a vehicle so long before you have to replace a vehicle,” said Young.
Young’s long-term plan is expected to address things like new switches and transformers, and poles which can withstand more powerful winds.
“We are certainly looking to make sure that we minimize impacts, adverse impacts when these events do occur,” said Young.
Whatever plan is approved and ends up costing, Young promised a minimal impact on customers’ bills, especially since a 2% electric rate increase just took effect.
“For the same customers who are impacted by increased costs, those customers are adversely affected when we don’t have service available, so we’ve gotta balance those things,” said Young.
MLGW leaders also cautioned the city council that there’s no magic bullet to guarantee power will stay on during storms. They said beautifully trimmed trees will still blow over, and underground lines will be pulled up when trees tumble down.