The Southern Company isn't just whistling Dixie. It 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 about 44,000 MW and serve more than 4.5 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; its Southern Telecom unit offers wholesale fiber-optic services. In 2015 the company agreed to buy gas utility AGL Resources for $8 billion.
Southern's regulated operating companies provide electric service to Alabama and Georgia as well as to the northwestern portion of Florida and southeastern Mississippi.
Southern is licensed to do business in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.
Southern's four traditional operating companies – Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power – are vertically integrated utilities providing electric service in four Southeastern states.
In 2015 the company owned and/or operated 33 hydroelectric power plants, 31 fossil fuel generating stations, three nuclear plants, and 13 combined cycle/cogeneration stations, nine 16 solar plants, one wind facility, 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.
The company operates nearly 200,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines and more than 80,000 miles of gas pipelines.
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.
SouthernLINC Wireless provides digital wireless communications for use by Southern Company and its subsidiary companies and also markets these services to the public. SouthernLINC Wireless delivers multiple wireless communication options including push to talk, cellular service, text messaging, wireless internet access, and wireless data. Its system covers 127,000 square miles in the Southeast. SouthernLINC Wireless also provides fiber cable services within the Southeast through its subsidiary, Southern Telecom, Inc.
Retail accounted for 86% of Southern's 2015 revenues; wholesale, 10%; and other electric revenues, 4%.
Sales and Marketing
The company provides electricity to residential, industrial, and commercial customers. It sells electricity at market-based rates in the wholesale market, primarily to investor-owned utilities, IPPs, municipalities, electric cooperatives, and other load serving entities.
Southern provides transmission, distribution, and sale electricity, at retail in 400 cities and towns, at wholesale to 14 municipally-owned electric distribution systems (11 of which are served indirectly through sales to AMEA) and two rural distributing cooperative associations.
There were approximately 65 municipally-owned electric distribution systems operating in the territory in which the traditional operating companies provide electric service at retail or wholesale. About 48 municipally-owned electric distribution systems and one county-owned system received their requirements through MEAG Power. The six cooperatives serve approximately 325,000 retail customers in a certificated area of approximately 10,300 square miles.
The four traditional operating companies operate as vertically integrated utilities providing electricity to customers within their service areas in the Southeast. Prices for electricity provided to retail customers are set by state commissions under cost-based regulatory principles. Prices for wholesale electricity sales, interconnecting transmission lines, and the exchange of electric power are regulated by the FERC.
Southern distributes its product via distribution facilities.
In 2015 the company's net revenues decreased by 5%. Retail revenues declined due to increased rates primarily in Albama Power. The increase in rates and pricing was also due to the implementation of rates for the Kemper IGCC that began in August 2015 at Mississippi Power. The increase was partially offset by the correction of an error affecting billings since 2013 to a small number of large commercial and industrial customers under a rate plan allowing for variable demand-driven pricing at Georgia Power.
Wholesale revenues rose due to lower energy revenues and a drop in capacity revenues. The decreases in energy revenues were primarily related to lower fuel costs and lower customer demand due to milder weather as compared to the prior year, partially offset by increases in energy revenues from new solar and wind PPAs at Southern Power. The decreases in capacity revenues were primarily due to the expiration of wholesale contracts in December 2014 at Georgia Power, unit retirements at Georgia Power, and PPA expirations at Southern Power.
Other electric revenues decreased due to lower transmission revenues at Georgia Power primarily as a result of a contract that expired in December 2014 and a $13 million decrease in co-generation steam revenues at Alabama Power, partially offset by increase in outdoor lighting revenues at Georgia Power.
In 2015 Southern's net income increased by 20% due to a decrease in fuel and purchased power expenses primarily the result of decline in the average cost of fuel and purchased power primarily due to lower coal and natural gas prices and a decrease in the volume of KWHs generated and purchased due to milder weather.
Cash from operating activities increased by 8% due to an higher fuel cost recovery, partially offset by the timing of vendor payments.
Southern intends to continue its strategy of developing and constructing other new facilities, expanding existing facilities, and adding environmental control equipment. Total cost of construction incurred for these projects during 2015 was $1.8 billion.
The company continued to expand their renewable energy portfolio and announced a merger with AGL Resources. The addition of AGL Resources’ network of natural gas assets and businesses will provide a broader, more robust platform for long-term success, which it expects to result in increased opportunities to invest in future infrastructure and energy solutions. In addition, it also bought PowerSecure International, a provider of utility and energy technologies.
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 2015 Georgia Power announced the launch of the 2015/2016 Advanced Solar Initiative Distributed Generation program soliciting projects of varying sizes totaling 100 MW. The company will acquire these solar resources using a combination of competitive bidding and fixed pricing.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2016 Southern bought PowerSecure International, a leading provider of utility and energy technologies to electric utilities, and their industrial, institutional and commercial customers.
In 2015 the company agreed to buy gas utility AGL Resources for $8 billion.
That year Southern bought Kay Wind Holdings, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Apex Clean Energy Holdings, LLC, for $492 million. Kay Wind is constructing a 299-MW wind facility in Kay County, Oklahoma.
That year Southern also acquired two Georgia solar projects totaling 99 MW.
In 2014 the company and Turner Renewable Energy acquired Adobe from Sun Edison. Adobe constructed and owns a 20-MW solar generating facility in Kern County, California. It also bought Imperial Valley from a wholly-owned subsidiary of First Solar, the developer of Imperial Valley's 150-MW solar photovoltaic facility in Southern California.