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.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
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 carbon emissions from 2007 levels by 2030 and a long-term goal of net-zero carbon operations 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 carbon 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 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 to define the U.S.’ nationally determined contribution (NDC) within the Paris 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.
GHG Emission Disclosure
The Southern Company system’s GHG emissions have decreased since 2007. Without federal mandates, total annual emissions in 2018 were approximately 35 percent lower than 2007 levels.
Southern Company System-wide GHG emissions
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 financial control. For 2018, the Southern Company system’s GHG emissions were approximately 102 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).
Southern Company Business Division GHG emissions
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.
Southern Company Electric Sector GHG intensity
The change in the Southern Company system’s electricity generation mix is reflected in GHG emissions intensity. In 2018, GHG intensity on a financially controlled basis was about 1,077 pounds (lbs) CO2e per megawatt hour (MWh).
Southern Company Gas Sector Methane emissions
For nearly three decades, Southern Company Gas has reported natural gas methane emissions through Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gas STAR voluntary reporting program and has reported methane emissions through EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program since 2011. The figure below shows a summary of Southern Company Gas’ EPA reported fugitive methane emissions from 2011-2016. The figure below shows a summary of Southern Company Gas’ fugitive CH4 methane emissions starting in 2011 when reporting began through EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
Carbon reduction activities
To keep electricity 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.
Carbon capture, utilization and storage
The National Carbon Capture Center is a focal point of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to develop advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal- and natural gas-based power generation. The world-class test facility, managed and operated by Southern Company in Alabama, works with scientists and technology developers from government, industry, university and research organizations who are creating the next generation of carbon capture technologies. The center also chairs the International Test Center Network, a global coalition of facilities working to accelerate the research and development of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies.
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.
Methane reduction activities
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.
Emission intensity goals
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.
Southern Company Gas
Pipeline Replacement Program Overview*
Leak detection and repair protocols
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.
Reporting and regulatory compliance
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.