Southern Company

InfluenceMap Score
E
Performance Band
24%
Organisation Score
44%
Relationship Score
Modifications to InfluenceMap Scoring
Sector:
Utilities
Head​quarters:
Atlanta, United States
Brands and Associated Companies
Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Southern Nuclear

Climate Lobbying Overview: Southern Company appears to have actively lobbied against US climate change regulation in key policy areas such as carbon taxation and renewable energy. Although the company’s top-line messaging on climate change has shown a broadly positive shift as of 2019, its stance on climate-related regulation and the transition of the energy mix remain largely at odds with IPCC guidance.

Top-Line Messaging on Climate Policy: Southern Company has historically questioned the science of climate change, including funding the research of a prominent climate denier in 2015. As recently as 2017, CEO Tom Fanning publicly disputed the science of climate change. In 2019 and 2020, the company has shifted to recognize the “importance” of responding to climate change, but exhibits strong support for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies rather than stringent policy measures to combat emissions as recommended by the IPCC. As of 2020, Southern appears to be generally supportive of the Paris Agreement.

Engagement with Climate-Related Regulations: Southern Company 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 2016. Southern Company also directly opposed proposed model emissions trading rules included in the plan. In a 2019 interview with Axios, CEO Tom Fanning iterated his opposition to a climate-motivated carbon tax.

Southern Company does not support renewable energy legislation, with Fanning speaking out in 2020 against renewable energy mandates. Through its subsidiary Alabama Power in 2020, the company was also the principal advocate of an Alabama solar fee, which limits the feasibility of independent solar generation in the state.

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 electrification of transportation and for the replacement of coal with natural gas, but remains opposed as of 2020 to government intervention in the energy mix, including the regulation of coal. In addition, Southern Company and its subsidiary, Southern Company Gas, appear to support a long-term rather than transitional role for natural gas “in a clean energy future,” as written in a June 2020 press release.

Southern Company’s adverse position on the energy transition is further evident at the state level. Southern Company subsidiaries have blocked third-party interventions in utility commission cases for their Integrated Resource Plans in Mississippi and Alabama throughout 2019, reportedly to protect investments in gas-burning. In 2020, subsidiary Nicor Gas stood as an opponent of Illinois’ Clean Energy Jobs Act. Despite Southern Company’s predominantly negative position on the energy transition, the company is a founding member of the Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA), 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, however, provides no further detail on these organizations’ climate policy positions nor the company’s alignment with them. 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, such as the US Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Southern Company Vice-President and President for External Affairs Christopher C. Womack is on the executive committee of the National Association of Manufacturers, which has also opposed climate regulations in the US.

QUERIES
DATA SOURCES
Main Web Site Social Media CDP Responses Legislative Consultations Media Reports CEO Messaging Financial Disclosures EU Register
Communication of Climate Science
0 NS NS -2 -2 -1 NS NA
Alignment with IPCC on Climate Action
NS 0 NA -2 0 NS NS NA
Supporting the Need for Regulations
1 -2 NS -1 -2 -1 NS NA
Support of UN Climate Process
1 0 NS NS NS NS 0 NA
Transparency on Legislation
-1 NA -1 NA NA NA NS NA
Carbon Tax
NS -1 NS NS -2 -1 NS NA
Emissions Trading
NS NS NS -2 -2 NS NS NA
Energy and Resource Efficiency
0 0 0 -2 NS 0 0 NA
Renewable Energy
NS 0 NS -1 -2 -1 NS NA
Energy Transition & Zero Carbon Technologies
0 0 1 -1 0 -1 0 NA
GHG Emission Regulation
0 NS NS -1 -1 -2 0 NA
Disclosure on Relationships
0 NS 0 NA NA NA NS NA
Strength of Relationship
STRONG
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
WEAK
 
23%
 
23%
 
36%
 
36%
 
93%
 
93%
 
44%
 
44%
 
23%
 
23%
 
50%
 
50%

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.