The Southern Company isn't just whistling Dixie. The holding company is one of the largest electricity distributors in the US. It operates regulated utilities Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power, which combined have a generating capacity of almost 46,000 MW and serve more than 4.4 million electricity customers in the southeastern US. Southern also has energy marketing operations, and it provides energy consulting and management services for businesses and institutions. Through its Southern LINC Wireless unit, it provides wireless communications services in its US utility territory; its Southern Telecom unit offers wholesale fiber-optic services.
Southern's regulated operating companies provide electric service to Alabama and Georgia as well as to the northwestern portion of Florida and southeastern Mississippi.
In 2013 the company owned and/or operated 33 hydroelectric power plants, 32 fossil fuel generating stations, three nuclear plants, and 13 combined cycle/cogeneration stations, four solar plants, one landfill gas facility, and one biomass plant.
The company's nonregulated energy sector activities include marketing excess energy from its retail plants. It is building competitive plants across the southeastern US through subsidiary Southern Power. This unit has more than 8,760 MW of generating capacity.
Southern's transmission assets include more than 27,000 miles of transmission lines, 3,700 electric substations, and 300,000 acres of right of way.
After experiencing revenue dip in 2012 due to decrease in wholesale revenues caused by reduced energy prices and lower customer demand, in 2013 Southern’s revenues grew by 3% as the result of a growth in wholesale revenues due to an increase in energy and capacity revenues. The increase in energy revenues was related to higher energy prices and new solar contracts served by Southern Power's Plants Campo Verde and Spectrum, partially offset by a decrease in volume (due to milder weather crimping demand). The increase in capacity revenues was due to a new power purchase agreement (PPA) served by Southern's Plant Nacogdoches, and an increase in capacity amounts under existing PPAs.
Despite the increase in revenues, the company’s net income decreased by 29% in 2013 due to higher operating expenses as result of increased losses from the Kemper IGCC power plant and increased allowance for equity funds used during construction.
In 2013 the company’s operating cash inflow increased to $6.1 billion (compared to $4.9 billion in 2012) as the result of a decrease in fossil fuel stock due to an increase in power generation.
In keeping with the federal regulatory framework, which demands that utilities cut back on carbon emissions, Southern's Mississippi Power is building a 582-MW integrated gasification combined cycle power plant, one of the first advanced gasification generating facilities with carbon capture capabilities in the US.
In another move to grow its green energy portfolio, in 2013 Southern's Georgia Power signed a deal with EDP Renewables North America to add wind energy to its diverse energy portfolio. Georgia Power will source 250 MW of wind energy (enough electricity to power more than 50,000 Georgia homes) from EDP's wind farms in southwest Oklahoma.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Looking to grow its green generating capacity, in 2013 Southern acquired the 139 MW Campo Verde Solar Project from First Solar. It is Southern Power-Turner Renewable Energy partnership's fifth solar acquisition and its first solar project in California. The Campo Verde Solar Project will more than double Southern's solar capacity and will provide enough electricity to serve about 48,000 homes.
In 2012 Southern received government approval to begin construction on the first two new nuclear units in the US in 30 years, at subsidiary Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro.