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Wendell Willkie could be forgiven if he was not an avid fan of federally managed public power in the 1930s. As president of Southern Company predecessor Commonwealth & Southern, he fell into a very natural disagreement with President Franklin Roosevelt over the issue of electric utility ownership.
Strictly speaking, Willkie didn’t win that battle–portions of the company’s territory were
eventually ceded to the newly formed Tennessee Valley Authority. But he did manage to
protect the interests of customers by arguing vigorously about the benefits of investor-owned
utilities and helping to turn the tide of public opinion in their favor. His efforts helped ensure that public and private power entities would have the ability to compete fairly in the marketplace, and that customers would reap the rewards of that competition.
From its earliest days, Southern Company has spoken on behalf of customers at all levels of government, advocating practical concepts and common sense solutions. By debating openly and engaging constructively, we have worked to ensure that all sides are heard on the issues most important to our industry and the people and businesses it serves. It’s a privilege and an honor to participate in that process–and a responsibility we take very seriously.
Enter the halls of government today, and you’ll find a variety of groups represented–a melting pot of diverse ideas and opinions, all vying for the attention of elected and appointed representatives. As they have been for decades, Southern Company employees are a part of this mix, speaking on behalf of utility customers in their quest to ensure an abundant supply of clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
On any given day, we might be interacting with city officials as they debate a local tax issue. Or we might be consulting with state utility commission members as they consider a new rate mechanism. Or we might be providing input at the federal level, where legislators and regulators make far-reaching decisions on everything from environmental rules to cyber security.
We do a lot of listening–to customers, to learn their needs and concerns, and also to advocacy groups, who often articulate alternative points of view. Along the way, we offer our knowledge and experience, and work to introduce common sense solutions that take the needs of multiple constituencies into account.
An important part of that effort is our support for building a national energy policy that consists of two components: A truly diverse generation mix that utilizes all available sources–including new nuclear, 21st century coal, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency–and an emphasis on energy innovation through proprietary research and development. In ways large and small, we are working to ensure these outcomes, all for the benefit of the customers we serve.