Big bet on solar power? –Sam Booher; Shale and Australia! SO CEO Thomas A. Fanning @ SO 2012-05-23

According to memory, Sam Booher congratulated Southern Company (SO) CEO Thomas A. Fanning on moving away from coal, and recommended big bold bets in solar power. Camera operator error prevented recording what Booher said. I did get video of CEO Fanning’s response, about shale and natural gas, plus Australia.

…the most reliable forms of energy. Today, with the revolution we have seen in the shale gas industry, that tends to be natural gas. And so what we are doing is we are transitioning away from coal towards natural gas. Combined with new environmental regulations that we will comply with.

Those would be the new environmental regulations about which SO Chief Operating Officer Anthony Topazi said last December:

“It’s physically impossible to build the controls, the generation, the transmission and the pipelines needed in three years.”

COO Topazi also projected:

“We will experience rolling blackouts or rationing power if we don’t have simply the time to comply.”

Since SO CEO Fanning didn’t say anything about rolling blackouts or rationing power, I guess SO managed to find a way to comply, just as other power companies said they could at the time. Maybe we shouldn’t pay too much attention to predictions of flickering power from SO.

Back to CEO Fanning:

From an energy standpoint, Southern Company is a little bit smaller, but similar to, the energy production profile of the nation of Australia. We are a great, big company from an energy production standpoint.

According to Forbes 18 March 2012, SO is the largest electric utility in the U.S. by retail sales and number 6 in the world. Back in 2006, Forbes ranked Germany’s E.ON number one in the world, and Japan’s TEPCO as number 6. What happened to E.ON and TEPCO? Fukushima.

Some years ago we produced 70 or 80 percent of our energy from coal. In 2012 we believe that energy production will be more like 35%; we will have cut it in half. Natural gas some years ago was 16% of our energy. This year 47% is what we project.

Congratulations to SO on cutting down on the coal.

And we have great flexibility in the future, because we know the fuel markets will move over time. In fact we can vary our delivery of energy by fuel type with a great deal of flexibility, arguably as much as any in the utility industry today.

Not as much flexibility as in Australia, as Katherine Tweed wrote for GreenTechMedia 9 June 2010, EnergyAustralia Wins $100M Smart Grid, Smart City Project: Australia’s largest electric utility will lead a multi-city demonstration of various smart grid technologies.

We had a little over 20,000 MW of coal. As a result of accomodating these new regulations we will, probably by 2015, preserve of the 20 about about 12,000 MW. Of the 8, we’ll probably shut down about 4,000 MW; shut down entire plants. Of the remaining 4, we’ll likely transfer the majority of that from being coal-fired to being natural-gas-fired.

Hm, where are solar or wind in that projected mix? Nowhere. Is natural gas fracking with water pollution and earthquakes really the answer?

Here’s the video:

Big bet on solar power? –Sam Booher
Shareholder Meeting, Southern Company (SO),
Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia, 23 May 2012.
Videos by John S. Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).