The Southern Company system is a leader in offering innovative electric and natural gas energy efficiency programs that help customers use energy more wisely.
The Southern Company system must maintain enough power generation capability and natural gas system capacity to serve the energy needs of all its customers, particularly during hot days in the summer and cold days in the winter. Energy efficiency programs play an important role.
Programs and partnerships
Southern Company is an industry leader in the research, development and deployment of new, innovative energy technologies. Since the 1960s, the Southern Company system has managed approximately $2.3 billion in research and development investments – placing the company at the forefront of technology development for the production, delivery and end-use of energy. Over the past decade, the Southern Company system’s leveraged research and development investment of $436 million has returned benefits exceeding $3.4 billion.
Trade associations and research organizations
We actively work with the U.S. government, utilities, universities and technology developers in innovative partnerships to provide customers with clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy. For more than 40 years, we have collaborated with the Electric Power Research Institute to research and develop solutions to meet customers’ current and future energy needs. Through our partnership with Nest, Southern Company is among the first energy companies in the U.S. to offer Nest's third-generation product line to customers. In addition, Bloom Energy, Southern Company and its subsidiary PowerSecure have announced the acquisition of an estimated 50 megawatts of distributed fuel cells. This strategic alliance will include project investment and joint-technology development to provide innovative behind-the-meter energy solutions for customers.
The company is a leader in offering significant and innovative energy efficiency programs. The company is currently on the path to invest over $1 billion in electricity-related efficiency initiatives in the ten-year period that ends in 2020.
The My Power Usage program enables electric customers to view their daily energy usage in dollars or kWh, set up and maintain personal energy-use budget alerts, subscribe to energy efficiency reminders and view their projected electric bill amount.
Alabama Power is partnering with Signature Homes, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and several technology vendors to develop and offer Smart Neighborhood by Alabama Power – a community of 62 high-performance homes featuring emerging technology and energy-saving materials.
A sampling of energy efficiency and demand-response programs offered to residential customers by the company includes:
- Home energy audits
- Low-income weatherization and direct install programs
- Pre-K through Grade 12 energy efficiency education program
- Variable pricing and “smart” thermostat combinations
- Solar thermal water heating and home-building guidelines
For larger-volume small business, commercial and industrial customers we offer:
- Energy services
- Energy audits
- Real-time pricing
- Equipment rebates
- Interruptible customer rate programs
- Guided customer energy “six-sigma” type programs
- Standby generation and commercial construction programs
Electric Power Research Institute Energy-Efficiency Demonstrations - The Southern Company system is participating in demonstrations of several efficient residential and commercial technologies, including variable flow residential heat pumps, residential ductless heat pumps and heat pump washer/dryer systems.
Residential Heat Pump Water Heaters - These units extract heat from the surrounding air and pump it to heat domestic water. Heat pump water heaters are about 2.5 times more efficient than conventional electric water heaters and four to five times more efficient than gas water heaters. By using less energy, the units reduce emissions and costs.
Industrial Heat Pump - We're helping customers with technologies like a 500-ton system that captures waste heat from condensers to deliver 150-degree hot water for the facility, and an electric hybrid desiccant that dehumidifies building ventilation air using less than 50 percent conventional compression HVAC technology.
UV for Finish Curing - Using only 20 percent of the energy typically used with other curing methodologies, UV light is being demonstrated for industrial material final finish curing of liquid, powder and adhesive coatings.
For over 100 years, Southern Company has been committed to innovation with a focus on the research and development of emerging energy solutions.
Southern Company’s Energy Innovation Center, located in Atlanta’s Technology Square, is the home of our most inventive ideas and programs that work to bring better, more reliable and more efficient energy across the country. The Energy Innovation Center is the place where creative problem-solving and smart investment come together to improve lives.
The Southern Company system has invested approximately $7 billion over the past 12 years on grid improvements, enhancing our ability to predict problems before they happen and adapt to avoid service disruptions.
Typical grid modernization topic areas are smart grid and advanced metering infrastructure, regulatory reform, utility rate reform, energy storage/DER, microgrids and demand response.
By 2030, the company expects some significant changes in some of the basic functioning of the grid. These changes will be enabled by advances in communication protocols, power electronics, analytics and flexibility:
Examples of company activities to enable these transitions include:
Monitoring and visualization. The company is engaged with the industry’s collaborative research organization, the Electric Power Research Institute in ongoing development of a transmission monitoring, diagnostics and visualization tool for the transmission system that will facilitate decisions and mitigating measures to enhance system performance, efficiency and reliability.
SynchroPhasors. Phasor Measurement Units provide high-speed, synchronized measurements of systemwide phasor voltages and currents that are unavailable with the current monitoring systems. Their deployment is helping to improve real-time stability of the grid.
Analytics center. The company is developing a Transmission Visualization and Analytics Center for testing next generation hardware and software for grid control before implementation. It will also serve as a training center for system operators.
The Southern Company system has improved the efficiency of operations by deploying 4.6 million smart meters across the Southeast. In addition to automatically reporting energy usage and outage information, the meters enhance response times for service requests and curtail the number of company vehicles on the road, reducing vehicle emissions and traffic while saving fuel. The technology also aids the development of demand response programs and makes time-of-use pricing possible.
Legislative and regulatory participation
Activities underway in the U.S. include: active studies/investigations that are legislative or regulatory-led around grid modernization topic areas, changes to utility planning processes that consider non-wires alternatives and changes to state and wholesale market regulations enabling market access, and utility business model and rate reform that include performance based rates, time of use rates, residential demand charges, etc.
Southern Company’s electric utility companies have been actively deploying technologies that will enable the future state of energy delivery. Smart grid investments have exceeded over $1 billion and include the deployment of grid automation, advanced metering infrastructure, Conservation Voltage Reduction, remote fault indicators, numerous SCADA operated devices and sensors, solar photovoltaics, Distribution Management Systems and storage demonstration projects.
One of the greatest challenges for our industry is cybersecurity. As utility systems and customer equipment become more digitally enabled and interconnected, the risk of cyber-attacks will be more prevalent and disruptive. Cybersecurity must be an integral part of planning, developing and implementing the next generation of the electric grid and customer digitalization.