The Southern Company at a Glance

Uppers

  • Great work environment, which offers stable employment, good benefits, and good work/life balance

Downers

  • Flexible work arrangements like telecommuting are rarely allowed

The Bottom Line

  • Southern Company offers stability, competitive pay, a pension, and 9-to-5 hours for most of its employees.

About The Southern Company

The Southern Company isn't just whistling Dixie. It is one of the largest electricity generators and 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 46,000 MW and serve more than 4.5 million electricity customers in the southeastern US. Its energy sources include natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables. In 2016 the company acquired AGL Resources for $8 billion (renamed to Southern Company Gas), which provides natural gas through more than 80,000 miles of pipeline to nearly 4.6 million customers in seven states.

Operations

The Southern Company reports financial information for three business segments: Traditional Electric Operating Companies (TEOCs), Southern Power, and Southern Company Gas. The TEOCs generate about 85% of total revenue, while Southern Power and Southern Company Gas each contribute roughly 8%.

Organizationally, most of the company’s operations occur within the TEOCs’ regulated utility companies that own generation, transmission, and distribution facilities used to provide electric service to several Southeastern states. The utility companies include Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power. The TEOCs generate more than 68 billion KW hours of electricity and purchase an additional 25 billion KW hours. Of its own generated power, just over 40% comes from natural gas, about 30% each from coal and nuclear, and a little bit of hydro power dropped in as well.

The Southern Power segment constructs, acquires, owns, and manages power generation assets and sells electricity at market-based rates in the wholesale market. It typically only pursues new endeavors if proven viable through long-term power purchase agreements for the generated power. The segment has more than 11,760 MW of generating capacity.

The primary business of the Southern Company Gas segment is the storage and distribution of natural gas through its 14 storage facilities (total capacity of some 160 billion cubic feet) and more than 80,000 miles of pipelines.

The Southern Company owns or operates more than 30 hydroelectric power plants, about 30 fossil fuel generating stations, three nuclear power plants, 14 combined cycle/cogeneration stations, more than 30 solar facilities, and seven wind farms.

Geographic Reach

The Southern Company’s electric service territory encompasses 120,000 square miles and an estimated population of 17 million people. It supplies electric service to most of the states of Alabama and Georgia, together with the northwestern portion of Florida and southeastern Mississippi. However, its impact is felt beyond its direct service area because the power generated by its facilities is sold to non-affiliated distribution systems, and its Southern Power unit sells to investor-owned utilities, municipalities, and electric cooperatives whose service areas exist outside the Southern Company’s service territory.

Through its Southern Company Gas unit, the company serves almost 4.6 million customers in seven states, including Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, and Florida.

The Southern Company generation segment is licensed to do business in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, the Carolinas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Sales and Marketing

The Southern Company markets include retail electrical and gas customers, wholesale electric and gas purchasers, and owners of non-affiliated electric distribution systems. The retail business is its largest, accounting for almost 90% of all revenue (80% electricity, 10% gas), with residential customers contributing some 40% and commercial clients a further 35%. Wholesale electric sales represent roughly 10% of sales. It sells electricity at market-based rates in the wholesale market, primarily to investor-owned utilities, municipalities, electric cooperatives, and other load serving entities.

Its regulated utility companies are typically the sole authorized electricity and gas supplier for their service areas. Although niche players and projects may present negligible third-party competition from time to time, the regulated nature of its business represents a significant barrier to entry to would-be competitors.

Rate-regulated electricity prices paid by retail customers are set by state commissions under cost-based regulatory practices. Prices for wholesale electricity sales, interconnecting transmission lines, and the exchange of electric power are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Southern Company sells both retail and wholesale and therefore must work within the regulations of these government agencies.

Financial Performance

The Southern Company financials for recent years have generally been steady, reliable and on a slight upward trend. Revenue consistently rose in five of the seven years between 2009 and 2016, with the long-term trend rising from $15.7 billion (2009) to $19.9 billion (2016). Over the same period, net income rose, dipped, and rose again, exceeding in 2016 its former 2012 peak; all the while remaining in a range between $1.7 billion and $2.5 billion.

In 2016, revenue rose nearly 14% to $19.9 billion, from 2015’s $17.5 billion. The increase is due to $1.6 billion in revenue from the 2016 acquisition of Southern Company Gas unit (formerly AGL Resources), $440 million in other revenue (mainly unregulated energy sales), and generally higher rates and prices charged to its customers.

Net income for 2016 ticked up 3% to $2.5 billion from $2.4 billion in 2015, due to partial-year earnings from the Southern Company Gas unit, increases in income tax benefits and Southern Power’s renewable energy sales, all offset by higher expenses and a loss associated with the Kemper clean-coal plant construction project.

Cash holdings changed from $1.4 billion in 2015 to $2.0 billion in 2016. Although the change was small, the magnitude of cash activities was high. The acquisition of Southern Company Gas contributed to a number of cash-related items, including a large portion of the $10.7 billion cash outlay for 2016 acquisitions, higher property addition charges, and a $1.4 billion cash use for Southern Co. Gas’ investment in an unconsolidated subsidiary. To cover these investing expenditures, the company issued $16.3 billion in long-term debt and $3.8 billion in a secondary public stock offering. The cash position also benefited from $4.9 billion generated by operating activities.

Strategy

Southern Company’s corporate strategy involves maintaining the core electric service of its regulated utilities, investing in its Southern Power and Southern Co. Gas units, and addressing asset retirements due to environmental obligations. In total, the company intends to spend $25 billion of capital expenditures (CAPEX) between 2017 and 2019, with roughly 80% of it targeted towards these strategic endeavors.

With more than 80% of the company’s revenue coming from its electric utilities it is vital that the physical infrastructure of its electric generation and transmission facilities support near constant availability. In the coming years 40% of CAPEX, or about $10 billion, is allocated for the work of maintaining and improving transmission lines, gas pipelines and storage facilities, and generation plants.

The company is planning large outlays to support its move into natural gas. In 2016 it acquired AGL Resources and renamed it Southern Company Gas. In the same year it acquired 50% ownership in the Southern Natural Gas pipeline business from owner Kinder Morgan. To support future expansion of its gas business the company intends to spend some $5.0 billion in CAPEX between 2017 and 2019, most of it to grow its local distribution company network.

The company anticipates investments in its Southern Power unit, primarily for construction costs of its new flagship facilities – Vogtle Nuclear Units 3 & 4 and the Kemper County Energy Facility. Both facilities ran into serious headwinds in 2017 that questioned the viability of continued construction. Vogtle is many years behind the original schedule, over budget, and experiencing impacts due to financial troubles of a key supplier. In late 2017 the company vowed to complete the project. The Kemper County clean-coal power plant hasn’t meet requirements and in mid-2016 Mississippi state regulators stepped in to request a transition from the non-working clean-coal operations to natural gas. The company is evaluating options before agreeing to continue, having already accumulated more than $3 billion in project losses.

It also is expanding its operations in wholesale energy markets, energy solutions, and in renewables. It acquired PowerSecure International (energy solutions) in 2016. In that same year Southern Power completed construction of approximately 1,000 MWs of solar facilities and expects to have 3,000 MW of wind & solar power placed in service by 2020. In 2017 it purchased the Texas-based Bethel wind project, which will have 276 MW of capacity when completed, and also bought the Cactus Flats 148 MW wind facility that it expects to be in service by mid-2018. The company typically only enters into renewables endeavors when a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) is in place to buy the generated power. At the end of 2016, it had under PPA contract nearly 3,700 MW of solar and wind power.

The company is addressing requirements to retire older power generation assets and to perform environmental cleanup of residue (ash ponds, for example) accumulated over the lives of the plants. Nearly $3.0 billion of CAPEX is designated between 2017 and 2019 for these efforts.

Mergers and Acquisitions

In 2016, Southern Company Gas acquired a 50 percent equity interest in the Southern Natural Gas pipeline system from Kinder Morgan. In the same year it completed the acquisition of AGL Resources for $8 billion and renamed it Southern Company Gas. The transaction added 6,000 employees, over 4.5 million natural gas customers, and provided a geographic footprint in Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland – through seven natural gas utility companies. In 2017 it subsequently spun off two of the AGL utilities (Elizabethtown Gas in New Jersey and Elkton Gas in Maryland) in an effort to strengthen its balance sheet by reducing financing requirements related to the pair.

In 2016 Southern bought PowerSecure International, a leading provider of utility and energy technologies to electric utilities, and their industrial, institutional and commercial customers.

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The Southern Company

30 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd Nw
Atlanta, GA 30308-3055
Phone: 1 (404) 506-5000
Fax: 1 (404) 506-0662

Stats

  • Employer Type: Public
  • Stock Symbol: SO
  • Stock Exchange: NYSE
  • Chairman, President, and CEO: Thomas A. Fanning
  • Chairman, President, and CEO: Thomas A. Fanning
  • EVP and COO: Kimberly S. Greene
  • 2016 Employees: 32,020

Major Office Locations

  • Atlanta, GA

Other Locations

  • Abbeville, AL
  • Aliceville, AL
  • Anniston, AL
  • Atmore, AL
  • Attalla, AL
  • Auburn, AL
  • Bay Minette, AL
  • Bayou La Batre, AL
  • Bessemer, AL
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Blountsville, AL
  • Bucks, AL
  • Calera, AL
  • Camden, AL
  • Carbon Hill, AL
  • Centre, AL
  • Childersburg, AL
  • Citronelle, AL
  • Clanton, AL
  • Columbia, AL
  • Dadeville, AL
  • Daleville, AL
  • Dora, AL
  • Dothan, AL
  • Enterprise, AL
  • Eufaula, AL
  • Eutaw, AL
  • Fayette, AL
  • Florala, AL
  • Forkland, AL
  • Gadsden, AL
  • Geneva, AL
  • Goodwater, AL
  • Haleyville, AL
  • Headland, AL
  • Heflin, AL
  • Jackson, AL
  • Leesburg, AL
  • Mobile, AL
  • Monroeville, AL
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Northport, AL
  • Ohatchee, AL
  • Oneonta, AL
  • Ozark, AL
  • Parrish, AL
  • Pell City, AL
  • Prattville, AL
  • Prichard, AL
  • Quinton, AL
  • Ragland, AL
  • Roanoke, AL
  • Salem, AL
  • Saraland, AL
  • Selma, AL
  • Slocomb, AL
  • Sylacauga, AL
  • Talladega, AL
  • Theodore, AL
  • Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Union Springs, AL
  • Valley, AL
  • Verbena, AL
  • Vincent, AL
  • Wetumpka, AL
  • Wilsonville, AL
  • York, AL
  • Stamford, CT
  • Cantonment, FL
  • Chipley, FL
  • Destin, FL
  • Doral, FL
  • Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Lynn Haven, FL
  • Niceville, FL
  • Orlando, FL
  • Panama City, FL
  • Pensacola, FL
  • Port Saint Lucie, FL
  • Rockledge, FL
  • Sneads, FL
  • Tallahassee, FL
  • Albany, GA
  • Americus, GA
  • Athens, GA
  • Augusta, GA
  • Austell, GA
  • Baxley, GA
  • Brunswick, GA
  • Canton, GA
  • Carrollton, GA
  • Cartersville, GA
  • Cedartown, GA
  • Clarkesville, GA
  • Columbus, GA
  • Conyers, GA
  • Cornelia, GA
  • Eatonton, GA
  • Euharlee, GA
  • Fayetteville, GA
  • Forest Park, GA
  • Fort Gaines, GA
  • Fortson, GA
  • Gainesville, GA
  • Greensboro, GA
  • Hartwell, GA
  • Jackson, GA
  • Jesup, GA
  • Jonesboro, GA
  • Juliette, GA
  • Kennesaw, GA
  • Kingsland, GA
  • Lakemont, GA
  • Lawrenceville, GA
  • Lithonia, GA
  • Macon, GA
  • Manchester, GA
  • Marietta, GA
  • Mcdonough, GA
  • Milledgeville, GA
  • Newnan, GA
  • Norcross, GA
  • Riverdale, GA
  • Rockmart, GA
  • Rome, GA
  • Savannah, GA
  • Smyrna, GA
  • Snellville, GA
  • Statesboro, GA
  • Swainsboro, GA
  • Tallulah Falls, GA
  • Tifton, GA
  • Toccoa, GA
  • Tucker, GA
  • Union City, GA
  • Valdosta, GA
  • Vidalia, GA
  • Waycross, GA
  • Waynesboro, GA
  • Carthage, IL
  • Crystal Lake, IL
  • Glen Ellyn, IL
  • Joliet, IL
  • Kankakee, IL
  • Lincolnshire, IL
  • Mendota, IL
  • Naperville, IL
  • Ottawa, IL
  • Rock Falls, IL
  • Erath, LA
  • Lafayette, LA
  • Elkton, MD
  • Mankato, MN
  • Bay Saint Louis, MS
  • Escatawpa, MS
  • Forest, MS
  • Gulfport, MS
  • Hattiesburg, MS
  • Lucedale, MS
  • Meridian, MS
  • Moss Point, MS
  • Sumrall, MS
  • Princeton, NC
  • Salisbury, NC
  • Elizabeth, NJ
  • Stewartsville, NJ
  • Union, NJ
  • Buffalo, NY
  • New York, NY
  • Greenville, SC
  • Memphis, TN
  • Houston, TX
  • Newport News, VA
  • Norfolk, VA
  • Kirkland, WA
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