Southern Company

InfluenceMap Score
Performance Band
Organisation Score
Relationship Score
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 lobby on climate policy with largely negative positions. Although Southern's top-line messaging on climate shifted positively in 2019, the utility has continued to engage in opposition to specific climate policies such as building electrification measures, and appears to remain committed to preserving the role of fossil fuels in the energy mix.

Top-Line Messaging on Climate Policy: Southern’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. In 2021, CEO Tom Fanning called for federal public policy to help the energy sector decarbonize while also cautioning against the "human costs" of rapid climate action. As of 2021, 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: InfluenceMap was unable to detect significant, publicly available evidence of Southern’s engagement with climate policy in 2020-21. The utility’s 2021 federal lobbying reports list engagement with Clean Energy Standard discussions broadly as well as the CLEAN Future Act, a bill which establishes a 100% clean energy target for utilities by 2035 and which includes partial credits for fossil gas. However, the disclosure does not list the company’s positions. Southern clearly supported the Clean Energy Future Through Innovation Act of 2021 which, rather than mandating clean energy use by utilities, establishes a target of 80% reduction in annual power sector carbon dioxide emissions below the level in the year of enactment by 2050. Previously, in 2020, CEO Tom Fanning spoke out against renewable energy mandates.

Southern subsidiary Alabama Power was also the principal advocate in 2020 for fixed fees for customers with distributed solar in Alabama, which interest groups claim could limit the feasibility of independent solar generation in the state. In the past, Southern was a consistent opponent of the Clean Power Plan, utilizing consultations with the US EPA as well as legal action to derail the plan between 2014 and 2017. In a 2019 interview with Axios, CEO Tom Fanning reiterated his opposition to a climate-motivated carbon tax.

Positioning on Energy Transition: While pursuing a “low-to-no” carbon transition in its own operations as of 2019, Southern Company does not appear to support policy to enable a wider shift to a low-carbon energy sector. In 2018, CEO Tom Fanning voiced support for the replacement of coal with fossil gas. Southern’s September 2020 Net Zero report further describes fossil gas as an “important part of our nation’s effective transition to a net zero future.” The report emphasizes concerns around the technical feasibility of a move away from fossil gas without specifying the need for carbon capture or methane abatement, a position which does not appear aligned with IPCC advice. In addition, in 2020, Fanning stated his opposition to government intervention in the energy mix, including the regulation of coal. In an April 2021 earnings call, Fanning expressed mixed support for the the Biden administration infrastructure proposal, emphasizing that nuclear assets should be included in transitioning to a net-zero economy by 2050.

Southern Company’s adverse position on the energy transition is further evident at the state level. Subsidiary Georgia Power stated support for Georgia's HB 150 in early 2021, an anti-electrification bill that prohibits local governments from adopting energy source-specific building codes. In 2020, subsidiary Nicor Gas stood as an opponent of Illinois’ Clean Energy Jobs Act. Southern’s position on transportation electrification is more positive: the company was a founding member of the Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) in November 2020, an advocacy group calling for stronger policy to support the increase of electric vehicle use.

Industry Association Governance: Southern Company discloses some of its industry association memberships, but provides no further detail 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 other organizations consistently opposed to climate change policies. Subsidiary Georgia Power serves on the board of the US Chamber of Commerce and Southern Company Services CEO Stanley W. Connally is on the executive committee of the National Association of Manufacturers, both of which remain largely opposed to climate policy in the U.S. In addition, the CEO of a Southern subsidiary 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 to preempt electrification mandates since 2019.

Strength of Relationship

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.