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What is Smart Grid?

Smart Grid is a broad term used to describe upgrades that enhance the capabilities of the electric grid.  These technology upgrades are necessary to bring new technology—and benefits like automatic outage notification and system operations monitoring—to an electric grid that was constructed more than fifty years ago and still depends largely on manual processes.  Across the U.S. and around the world, Smart Grid projects may include any combination of smart meters, distribution system automation, demand response, renewable generation sources and other features.   Learn more about smart grid technology, components and benefits.

MLGW’s Smart Grid initiative involves a combination of equipment, communications and processes to enhance internal operations and customer service, while creating greater customer awareness of when their homes and facilities use electricity, natural gas and water.

Get Smart Videos:
What Are Smart Meters | Overview | RF Facts | Feedback
Others | Financial Impact | Realities | Customer Benefits | Recap

MLGW Smart Meter Installation video

MLGW’s Smart Grid initiatives include:

Phase 2 (full deployment), 2016-2020.  Phase 2 of MLGW’s initiative includes installation of more than 1,000,000 smart meters and telecommunications infrastructure for all customers served by MLGW.  While earlier efforts focused on residential customers, Phase 2 also includes businesses and organizations so that all customers can benefit from smart meter technology and the enhanced services it enables.  On 5/1/2015, MLGW’s Board of Commissioners approved the resolution for this MLGW-funded $240 million contract with Elster Solutions (which has since been acquired by Honeywell) and the Memphis City Council approved on 12/1/2015.  Installation of the required telecommunications network began in April 2016.  Installation of residential-size smart meters began in May 2016 and should be near completion by December 2018.  Installation and retrofitting of commercial-size meters began in Spring 2017 and will last through 2020.  Customers will receive notification by mail about 30 days before installers are scheduled to work in their area.  At that time, customers with residential-size meters will have the option of opting out of the installation.


  • See the 5/1/2015 presentation to the MLGW Board.

Phase 1, 2013-2014.  Phase 1 of MLGW’s initiative included the purchase of a combined 60,000 residential electric, natural gas and water smart meters and related systems.  Meters were installed at approximately 24,000 homes over a nine-month period, along with a wireless telecommunications network to support meter reading and two-way communications that enable meters to notify MLGW of potential problems.  Customers can view their electricity, gas and water usage through My Account as well as see how much their impending bill will be.    Phase 1 delivered numerous immediate benefits, including:

  • Detection of water leaks at approximately one-third of customers sites, enabling quicker customer notification
  • Detection of voltage levels that alerted MLGW to inspect for potential problems before the customer was aware of an issue
  • Detection of meter tampering, which resulted in lower utility theft

Smart Grid Demonstration, a pilot project that ran from 2010-2012.  Volunteers from more than 1,000 households across Shelby County received electric smart meters with built-in cellular modems to replace their existing analog (dial-faced) meter.  Smart meters securely transmitted electricity use data to MLGW each night.  Volunteers could view their smart meter data online through MLGW’s My Account service and could adopt a Time-of-Use electric rate.  Half of households also tested In Home Displays.  Overall, the average participant utilized the information and took energy conservation steps to use 2.3% less electricity during the pilot, saving $42.12.  Time-of-Use participants had the largest impact, using 5.6% less electricity and saving an average $82.68.  Read six quick facts or read the Smart Grid Demo final report

Downtown/Medical Center Network Communications Project, a multi-year effort that received $5 million in federal funding as part of a cost-sharing grant to add fiber optic communications.  The portion of MLGW's electric system modernized serves Downtown Memphis, government buildings and the region's major medical centers, including  Regional One Health (The Med) and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This growing area is served by a very complex networked distribution system but contains some of the oldest facilities in our system. Improvements  provide us, for the first time, with information on the operating status of the equipment and allow us to perform preventive maintenance to keep it working. Other benefits include the ability to monitor and control capabilities for transformers and key circuits, allowing us to reduce outage times, reduce employee resources needed to address problems, and give us additional insight to potential electric grid problems before outages occur.

Automated Switches. MLGW installed 40 automated switches to help reduce the number of customers affected by a particular outage, by automatically redirecting power from another circuit.  MLGW targeted circuits that had the longest average restoration times to receive this upgrade.