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Entergy pitches partnership to city if it leaves TVA

  • Aug 19, 2020 8:48 am GMT
Commercial Appeal

Entergy made another pitch for a potential partnership with Memphis, Light Gas and Water Monday.

Two of the for-profit utility's executives told the MLGW board of commissioners and executives that it stood ready to help build transmission lines and wheel power to Memphis if it decided to leave the Tennessee Valley Authority and buy power elsewhere.

Haley Fisackerly and Laura Landreaux of Entergy Mississippi and Arkansas respectively touted the utility's experience building transmission lines and showed the MLGW board potential solar farms that Memphis could connect to and asked Memphis to conduct a wide-open bidding process on its power supply. It was the second overt display of interest in Memphis from Entergy.

The two CEOs also wrote a letter to the board and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland in May, expressing their desire for a potential partnership if MLGW joined the Midcontinent System Operator or MISO. MISO is a grid operator and marketplace that covers much of central North America.

On Monday, during a public meeting regarding MLGW's power supply conducted over video conference, the pair got more specific.

Fisackerly told the MLGW board that if Memphis needs to build new transmission lines to connect with MISO, Entergy could help get that done within five years – the period between Memphis telling TVA goodbye and hooking up to another provider.

"We believe that it's reasonable to expect that these projects can be developed in the five-year notice period," Fisackerly said. "We have a lot of experience in this."

Some advocates for leaving TVA dispute the need for those transmission lines – there is a belief that TVA could be required to use its transmission lines to bring power to Memphis if MLGW leaves. Those advocates, the nonprofit $450 Million for Memphis and Nuclear Development, also maintain Memphis would not need to build any local electricity generation.

Entergy holds the same opinion.

"In Mississippi and Arkansas alone, there's over seven gigawatts of solar projects already in the interconnection queue that could be taken advantage of. ... The important thing to recognize is that MLGW does not have to become an operator of power plants," Fisackerly said. "We believe an open-ended, whiteboard, if you will call it, (request for proposals) allows bidders that flexibility to show you some of those options."

The two executives spoke at MLGW's Integrated Resource Plan listening session, which is a complicated name for a public comment session about the detailed analysis MLGW had Siemens, the German industrial giant, conduct about its future power needs.

Entergy was among several groups that spoke for more than three hours to the board at the public comment session. On Wednesday, CEO J.T. Young is expected to make a recommendation to the board that Memphis go out for bids on its power supply.

However, some advocates for leaving believe that bidding process will be flawed and based on bad assumptions baked into the Siemens report. Those advocates, namely the nonprofit $450 Million for Memphis and Nuclear Development, have argued that Siemens is prejudiced toward TVA and its projections about TVA exit savings, $122 million, are too low.

$450 Million for Memphis, which gets its name from the projected annual savings some studies have estimated Memphis would get by leaving TVA, helped organize the public comment session. Led by businessmen Karl Schledwitz and Jim Gilliland, the group arranged for Entergy, MISO, Friends of the Earth, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Nuclear Development to present to the MLGW board.

The group was asked to help by city of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen, who has been tasked by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to help oversee the power supply evaluation. Strickland appoints the MLGW board and CEO, but has no other formal role in oversight of the utility, which falls to the Memphis City Council.

Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politics for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.

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