Climate change is real, and Southern Company is committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero and providing the customers and communities we serve a clean energy future.
The Paris Agreement is an opportunity for the U.S. to engage on a coordinated, global strategy to address the threat of climate change. Southern Company supports this objective by actively advancing a net zero goal in direct alignment with the commitments of this landmark accord. We look forward to advancing our clean energy agenda, both independently as a publicly-held utility working closely with our customers and regulators, and with other policy makers as they work on details and associated policies as the U.S. establishes a new nationally determined contribution (NDC) within the Paris Agreement.
Southern Company is transitioning our energy generation fleet for a net zero future. In doing so, we have established an intermediate goal of a 50% reduction in GHG emissions from 2007 levels by 2030 and a long-term goal of net zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Our strategy to achieve these goals includes the continued development and deployment of a diverse portfolio of energy resources to reliably and affordably serve our customers and communities.
To do this, we are growing our investment in renewable energy, modernizing the grid to optimize technology advancements, increasing the use of natural gas, building new nuclear generating units, continuing our industry-leading, robust research and development (R&D) efforts, and investing in energy efficiency for savings on both sides of the meter.
We will work within the regulatory framework in each of our states to ensure that our GHG emission reduction efforts support customers' needs and preferences.
The Paris Agreement is an opportunity for the U.S. to engage on a coordinated, global strategy to address the threat of climate change. Southern Company supports this objective by actively advancing a net-zero goal in direct alignment with the commitments of this accord. We look forward to advancing our clean energy agenda, both independently as a publicly-held utility working closely with our customers and regulators, and with other policy makers as they work to define the U.S.’ nationally determined contribution (NDC) within the Agreement.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a byproduct of combustion. Southern Company is researching—with the federal government and other partners—how to capture and store CO2 emitted from power plants to keep it out of the atmosphere.
From 1998 to 2018, Southern Company Gas mitigated more than 3.3 million metric tons of CO₂ equivalent from the atmosphere. These reductions are the result of aggressive investment by Southern Company Gas in programs like those targeting pipeline replacement to improve the safety and performance of our natural gas system. The decrease is the GHG equivalent of removing 700,000 cars from our highways for one year.
The Southern Company system’s GHG emissions have decreased since 2007. Without federal mandates, total annual emissions in 2020 were approximately 52 percent lower than 2007 levels.
Southern Company climate disclosure specifics can be found in the CDP report. Additional data associated with climate metrics can be accessed from the ESG Data Table or the EEI ESG Template. These reports are found on our Reports page.
Most of the Southern Company system’s GHG emissions result from the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity, which results in emissions of three GHGs: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). More than 99 percent of the system’s electric generation GHG emissions are CO2.
The emissions shown here are based on electricity generating units and electricity and natural gas transmission and distribution systems for which the Southern Company system has equity-share.
For 2020, the Southern Company system’s GHG emissions were approximately 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).
The change in the Southern Company system’s electricity generation mix is reflected in GHG emissions intensity. In 2020, GHG intensity of the equity share electricity that Southern Company generated and sold to customers (excluding leveraged leases) was about 886 pounds (lbs) CO2e per megawatt hour (MWh).
To keep energy costs affordable while meeting the demand for lower GHG emissions, the Southern Company system invests in the research, development and deployment of new technologies, such as carbon capture, utilization and storage.
Managed and operated by Southern Company for the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Carbon Capture Center is working to accelerate the commercialization of advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emission from fossil-based power plants – and to promote carbon utilization and direct air capture solutions. The center provides a unique, neutral test bed for third-party developers, bridging the gap between laboratory research and large-scale demonstrations. Its testing of over 60 technologies has already reduced the projected cost of carbon capture by one-third.
The operating companies of the Southern Company system develop their environmental compliance strategies on a coordinated basis, using inputs and expertise from several organizations across the system.
The system’s GHG emissions are calculated using methods required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) GHG Reporting Program (GHGRP), including the GHGRP’s global warming potentials and emission factors. The emissions reported under the GHGRP are verified by EPA and based on units for which the system has operational control.
Most of the system’s electricity generation GHG emissions are measured with continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMs) per EPA’s 40 Code of Federal Regulations Part 75 specifications. Emissions not monitored by CEMs are calculated based on GHG mandatory reporting rule methodology. Several electricity generating units operated by Southern Company subsidiaries are owned or co-owned by various other companies.
For nearly three decades, Southern Company Gas has reported natural gas methane emissions through Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gas STAR voluntary reporting program.
Since 1990, the EPA has published an annual report including an Inventory of GHG and Sinks (GHG-I), a report containing national data listing sources of emission in all segments of the U.S. economy. In 2010, the EPA established a mandatory reporting program, GHG-RP, which requires detailed reporting of emissions sources and types from individual facilities but is not inclusive of all sources included in EPA’s national inventory report. Southern Company Gas has reported distribution emission to that program since 2012.
As a co-founding member of ONE Future, Southern Company Gas supported the development of a more robust voluntary reporting protocol that was inclusive of emission sources from both EPA programs. In 2017, ONE Future began utilizing this more robust methodology to develop its publicly reported collective metric as methane intensity. As Southern Company Gas continued to reach its own milestones and surpass ONE Future’s goals of emissions reductions, it began using the ONE Future methodology of GHG-RP+I for developing and reporting its methane emissions.
For more than two decades, Southern Company Gas has spearheaded several projects that reduce methane emissions, served as a trusted education source for consumers and participated in federal emissions reduction programs.
The methane emissions intensity rate is calculated as the volume of fugitive methane emissions divided by the total volume of methane throughput and expressed as a percentage. In 2019, Southern Company Gas’ fugitive methane emissions intensity rate, using the protocol established by Our Nation’s Future Energy Program (ONE Future), was 0.135%.
Southern Company Gas’ current intensity rate of 0.135% is less than ONE Future goals for the distribution sector for 2020 (0.48 percent) and 2025 (0.44 percent). Southern Company Gas expects to continue to remain below ONE Future's 2020 and 2025 goals.
Southern Company Gas has been a leader in pipeline replacement since the 1990s, putting it at the forefront of reducing GHG emissions. From 1998 to 2018, Southern Company Gas invested more than $2.2 billion in pipeline and infrastructure replacements that have reduced fugitive methane emissions. During that same timeframe, Southern Company Gas replaced over 6,000 miles of pipe material that is more prone to fugitive emissions (e.g. unprotected steel and cast-iron pipe), resulting in mitigation of more than 3.3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). Southern Company Gas continues to invest in methane detection and reduction across its footprint.
*Data also reported in the 2019 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration F 7100.1-1 Annual Report
** Lost and Unaccounted for Gas (L&U) percentages reflect the impact of multiple factors. The typical factors that contribute to L&U (listed in order of the largest volume of gas to the smallest) are: Meter Calibration; Timing of Meter Reads; Consumption on Inactive Meters; System Leakage; System Operations and Maintenance and; Excavation Damages. Volumes of gas from the first three sources (the largest sources) are consumed by appliances and not released into the atmosphere as natural gas
Southern Company Gas performs leakage surveys of its pipelines in accordance with Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations (49 CFR Part 192). Specifically, transmission lines are surveyed annually for leaks in accordance with CFR Part 192.706; business districts are surveyed annually in accordance with CFR Part 192.723 (b) (1); and the remaining distribution pipelines are surveyed for leaks every three or five years, in accordance with CFR Part 192.723 (b) (2). Leakage surveys are conducted using a combination of aerial, vehicular and foot surveys with electronic leak detection equipment.
Leaks are monitored and repaired in accordance with the national guidance material associated with CFR Part 192.723. Repairs on hazardous leaks are started immediately upon discovery. Non-hazardous leaks that have the potential to become hazardous, are repaired within 15 months of discovery.
In 2014, Southern Company Gas voluntarily elected to establish a total GHG emissions baseline using a methodology that exceeds Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reporting requirements. The more robust methodology was developed as part of Southern Company Gas’ involvement as a 2014 founding member in Our Nation’s Energy (ONE) Future, a coalition of leading companies with operations in every part of the natural gas value chain. ONE Future companies aim to achieve a voluntary goal of reducing methane emissions to 1 percent or less by 2025. The methodology includes those sources captured in EPA's GHG Reporting Program, EPA’s National Inventory and additional emission sources which are not included by EPA.