In 2020, the Southern Company system reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 52% from its 2007 benchmark levels, exceeding its 2030 goal to reduce GHG emissions by 50%. The intermediate 2030 goal is part of the system’s target to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050.
While emissions reductions may fluctuate around 50 percent the next few years depending on demand, weather and other factors, the system expects to sustainably achieve 50% reduction or greater by 2025, if not sooner.
“We have made significant progress in reducing the emissions profile of our system’s electric generation fleet,” said Tom Fanning, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Southern Company. “We will continue working toward a net zero GHG future while meeting the needs of our customers, employees, communities and investors.”
Southern Company’s reduced GHG emissions are indicative of the accelerating pace of decarbonization across the system. In 2018, GHG emissions were 35% below 2007 levels and further improved to a 44% reduction in 2019. The 52% reduction in 2020 reflects lower utilization of the system’s coal generating fleet partially influenced by lower demand due to mild weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.
For 2020, coal decreased to 17% of the system’s annual energy supply, while renewables grew to 15%. This compares to 69% coal and 1% renewables in 2007. When aggregating both renewables and nuclear, nearly one-third of the system’s energy supply came from zero carbon resources in 2020.
“This is about more than decarbonization. We have committed to both our intermediate and net zero GHG goals without any state of federal mandates. We pursue these goals because they are good for the customers and the communities we are privileged to serve,” Fanning said.
Southern Company’s approach to net zero is driven by thoughtful scenario and long-term planning as well as constructive regulatory decision-making. Looking ahead, Southern Company will continue to use a portfolio approach as the system decarbonizes. Those elements are expected to include continued coal transition, utilization of natural gas to enable fleet transition, further growth in the system’s portfolio of zero-carbon resources, negative carbon solutions, enhanced energy efficiency initiatives and continued investment in R&D focused on clean energy technologies.
A note about renewable generation
With respect to certain renewable generation and associated renewable energy credits (RECs), to the extent an affiliate of Southern has the right to the RECs associated with renewable energy it generates or purchases, it retains the right to sell the energy and RECs, either bundled or separately, to retail customers and third parties.