MLGW preps to restart rolling blackouts

By  and , Daily Memphian Updated: December 23, 2022 10:30 PM CT | Published: December 23, 2022 6:03 PM CT

Just minutes before it was scheduled to begin, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division said it is prepared to move forward with rolling power blackouts starting at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23.

MLGW previously announced systemwide rolling blackouts earlier around 11 a.m., before saying at a noon press conference that it wouldn’t enact them.

MLGW rolls back rolling blackouts

Under the new blackouts, service to each area will be interrupted for 30 minutes at a time. MLGW said customers may experience, on average, two to three interruptions each day of the blackouts. 

During periods of high demand, the Tennessee Valley Authority can require its local power companies to reduce its electric load by anywhere from 5-10% to avoid widespread power outages. 

From Thursday morning to Friday morning, demand increased about 70%, peaking at about 32,000 megawatt hours just before TVA ordered local power companies to implement rolling blackouts. 

The TVA faced outages at it Cumberland and Bull Run Fossil Plants, as well as at some of its natural gas plants. 

MLGW appeared to have used the interim period between TVA canceling the rolling blackouts and the word that they could be back on Friday evening to plot out which areas would be blacked out and when.

According to MLGW, the first areas to have the power cut would be north of Downtown, in Chickasaw Gardens around the Benjamin Hooks Central Library and North Germantown.

That would be followed by the areas of Central Gardens/Midtown, Getwell and Interstate 240, South Germantown/Winchester and East Germantown/West Collierville.

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Other areas could join the rotation as needed, with all blackouts to be scheduled for 30 minutes.

People in Southeast Memphis and southeastern unincorporated Shelby County are also being asked to limit their water usage to only essential needs. MLGW customers in those areas are currently experiencing low water pressure.

When the last-minute notice from TVA of the rolling blackouts was given earlier in the day, Mayor Jim Strickland followed quickly by issuing a state of emergency for at least the next seven days.

That state of emergency remained in place as the TVA suddenly reversed itself just as MLGW president and CEO Doug McGowen walked into a noon online press conference.

Despite TVA rescinding its order, McGowen said “we would all be wise to be prepared in the event that we have to go there again.”

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As the winter storm approached earlier in the week, McGowen told the utility board that he didn’t expect major power outages caused by the weather but would be watching the utility’s water infrastructure closely.

The Friday evening announcement that the blackouts may be back on reads: “The extreme cold temperatures and high demand across the TVA service territory continue to cause a critical power supply situation and low water pressure.”


blackouts MLGW winter weather

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  1. Bill Dries
  2. Keely Brewer

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.

Keely Brewer

Keely Brewer

Keely Brewer is a Report for America corps member covering environmental impacts on communities of color in Memphis. She is working in partnership with the Ag & Water Desk, a sustainable reporting network aimed at telling water and agriculture stories across the Mississippi River Basin.


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