Lines to Everyone. Pipelines move flue gases into the scrubber where they are neutralized by limestone. Resulting gypsum can be used in construction materials. Click to play as Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning outlines more about challenges with coal plants and opportunities across our entire portfolio of generation options.
Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning:
Clearly, we're leading the renaissance in our industry on nuclear. Coal, I think, becomes the focal point this year. And one of the things that we see is an evolving kind of environment with legislation, with regulatory environment. And so what we've got to do is figure out a way to translate a whole lot of, I think, uncertain variables for our coal fleet and figure out — especially from an environmental control standpoint — how to move those units forward into the future.
You will see us retain a strong commitment to research and development because, as we all know, things like carbon have to be dealt with by a certain time frame in the future, whether it's 2020 or 2025. We've got to provide industry leadership to find ways to deal with that important issue. We've got to provide a path forward. And Southern Company has always been a leader in research and development, and we'll continue to do that.
Renewables will be important. You know that we're working on biomass conversion. You've also seen us focus on a new partnership, perhaps with Ted Turner, and you may see us take the renewables investments away from the Southeast into places like the desert Southwest, California and a variety of other places, where things like — especially solar and perhaps wind — are more viable.
We are meeting our challenge to serve the ever-growing need for electricity while continuing to minimize the impact of electricity production on the environment. We've managed nearly $740 million in research and development over the past decade, seeking innovative ways to improve the generation, delivery, and use of electricity.
Additionally, we foster collaborative partnerships and volunteer organizations to conserve habitat, protect wildlife, recycle materials, provide recreation, and remove trash. We work at all levels, from field offices and power plants up through corporate channels at each of our subsidiaries, on a variety of conservation projects. More in social responsibility.
We review our environmental compliance strategy regularly to ensure planned controls and budgets will meet existing and emerging laws and rules, taking into account fuel prices and availability, unit characteristics, and financial impacts. We use our Environmental Management System—formalized in the 1990s with elements from management programs developed by national and international regulatory and standard-making organizations—to stay in compliance with regulations and direct voluntary environmental efforts.
We monitor and assess the environmental impact of our operations to improve our performance. We continually seek opportunities to prevent pollution and conserve natural resources in balance with maintaining reliability and low-cost service to our customers. Southern Company businesses comply with numerous regulations governing its air emissions, including State Implementation Plans developed to ensure compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards; regulations requiring improvements in visibility; as well as the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 and other emerging regulations.
"We believe climate change issues are critical to our planet, and we believe there are going to be financial risks that are going to be quantifiable."
Sister Barbara Aires, Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, addressing Southern Company on how climate change regulations will affect the company.