Southern Company

InfluenceMap Score
D
Performance Band
43%
Organisation Score
48%
Relationship Score
Sector:
Utilities
Head​quarters:
Atlanta, United States
Brands and Associated Companies:
Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Southern Nuclear
Official Web Site:

Climate Lobbying Overview: Southern Company (Southern) appears to engage on U.S. federal and state climate policy with mostly negative positions. Although Southern's top-line messaging on climate shifted positively in 2019, the utility still supports specific policies toward preserving the role of fossil fuels in the energy mix. Subsidiaries of Southern are board-level members of several groups that strategically oppose U.S. climate policy, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the CEO of subsidiary Southern Company Gas is the 2022 Chair for the American Gas Association, which strongly opposes building electrification measures and opposed the methane fee in the federal reconciliation bill.

Top-Line Messaging on Climate Policy: Southern demonstrates mixed top-line messaging on climate policy. The company’s current position on climate change represents a shift from 2015 through 2017 when the company and its CEO, Tom Fanning, publicly disputed the science of climate change. Regarding the Build Back Better Act, Fanning appeared to support a federal climate bill, including in an April 2022 earnings call with investors. As of 2022, Southern's website offers general support for the Paris Agreement though with an unclear position on the US' nationally determined contribution to the agreement.

Engagement with Climate-Related Policy: Southern appears to engage on U.S. climate policy with mixed positions. In February 2022, Southern signed a joint letter organized by C2ES that advocated to Congressional leadership to pass the clean energy tax credits in the Build Back Better Act. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on West Virginia v. EPA in June 2022, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that subsidiary Georgia Power did not offer a clear position on the decision. In the past, Southern was a consistent opponent of the Clean Power Plan, taking legal action to derail the plan between 2014 and 2017.

On the state level, Southern continues to demonstrate negative positions on renewable energy policy. In April 2021 and February 2022 comments to the Mississippi Public Service Commission, subsidiary Mississippi Power did not support the proposed updates to state net metering rules, emphasizing that increasing incentives for distributed generation would place an unfair burden on non-participants. As reported by the Saporta Report in May 2022, CEO Fanning reiterated this cost-shift argument and appeared to oppose rooftop solar incentives while speaking at Southern’s annual meeting in Georgia. Previously, as reported by Bloomberg in February 2020, CEO Tom Fanning spoke out against renewable energy mandates. In Alabama, subsidiary Alabama Power was the principal advocate in May 2020 for fixed fees for customers with distributed solar.

Positioning on Energy Transition: Southern Company demonstrates mostly negative positions on the energy transition and appears to promote the long-term role of fossil gas. In June 2022 comments to the EPA, Southern communicated feasibility concerns with CCS technology and hydrogen blending while advocating for a continued reliance on combustion turbines. That same month, the Guardian reported that Southern is a supporter of Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future, an advocacy group that appears to run campaigns to gain public support for fossil gas on the state-level. In May 2022, subsidiary Southern Company Gas signed a joint letter to the House Committee on Appropriations in which it advocated for increased research and development funding toward preserving the role of gas in the building and transportation sectors. Following the invasion of Ukraine, CEO Fanning advocated for the expansion of domestic fossil gas infrastructure and production in an April 2022 video interview with CNBC, stating that the Biden administration should “unleash the energy economy” to aid Europe and combat rising fuel prices. Southern takes similar positions on state level energy policy: in early 2021, subsidiary Georgia Power stated support for Georgia’s House Bill 150, the state’s gas ban preemption bill that was later signed into law. In Illinois, subsidiary Nicor Gas appeared in March 2021 as a witness in opposition to the state climate bill. The company’s positions on the Biden administration 2021 climate proposals are less clear: in October 2021, E&E News reported that Southern was present at a private meeting with Senator Manchin and five other utilities during negotiations on the proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) in the federal reconciliation bill. Southern also declined to comment on the CEPP in a September 2021 E&E News article. Southern’s position on transportation electrification is more positive: in January 2022, Southern submitted guidance to the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration in which it supported using the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s funds toward building out electric vehicle infrastructure in rural areas.

Industry Association Governance: Southern discloses its industry association memberships and broadly describes its policy for assessing and resolving misalignment on climate issues, however the company provides no further details on the extent to which the organizations’ climate policy positions align with or diverge from its own. Southern left America’s Power in 2019 as one of two final utilities to leave the group. However, it remains a member of organizations that demonstrate strong negative engagement on climate policy. Subsidiary Georgia Power serves on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Southern Company Services CEO Stanley W. Connally is on the board of directors for the National Association of Manufacturers, both of which remain largely opposed to climate policy in the U.S. In addition, Kimberly Greene, the CEO of subsidiary Southern Company Gas, serves as the 2022 Chair for the American Gas Association, which engages on U.S. climate policy with negative positions and has led a campaign since 2019 to preempt electrification mandates on the state level.

InfluenceMap collects and assesses evidence of corporate climate policy engagement on a weekly basis, depending on the availability of information from each specific data source (for more information see our methodology). While this analysis flows through to the company’s scores each week, the summary above is updated periodically. This summary was last updated in Q3 2022.

QUERIES
DATA SOURCES
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Strength of Relationship
STRONG
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
WEAK
 
29%
 
29%
 
27%
 
27%
 
29%
 
29%
 
57%
 
57%
 
91%
 
91%
 
52%
 
52%
 
91%
 
91%
 
25%
 
25%
 
35%
 
35%

How to Read our Relationship Score Map

In this section, we depict graphically the relationships the corporation has with trade associations, federations, advocacy groups and other third parties who may be acting on their behalf to influence climate change policy. Each of the columns above represents one relationship the corporation appears to have with such a third party. In these columns, the top, dark section represents the strength of the relationship the corporation has with the influencer. For example if a corporation's senior executive also held a key role in the trade association, we would deem this to be a strong relationship and it would be on the far left of the chart above, with the weaker ones to the right. Click on these grey shaded upper sections for details of these relationships. The middle section contains a link to the organization score details of the influencer concerned, so you can see the details of its climate change policy influence. Click on the middle sections for for details of the trade associations. The lower section contains the organization score of that influencer, the lower the more negatively it is influencing climate policy.