Shareholder Questions to Southern Company

Nuclear is our only emissionless technology, said Southern Company (SO) CEO Thomas A. Fanning. That would indicate that solar and wind have emissions. I assume he just mis-spoke in his otherwise masterful responses (often not answers) to shareholder questions.

Slides and sound for CEO Fanning’s main presentation are available on SO’s website. He indicated SO is unmatched in a combination of financial aspects, including dividends that have steadily increased year after year, and especially investment stability. He neglected to mention that much of those dividends are made possible by Georgia Power’s guaranteed profit margins. He did find time to oppose big government regulation, which is ironic, since Southern Company is a big beneficiary of Georgia’s numerous regulations benefitting Georgia Power. He also bragged about the Georgia legislature passing the “Energy Rate Increases to Finance Nuclear Power Plant Construction”.

During the Q&A session, I congratulated CEO Fanning on his 62% compensation raise last year, and noted that Georgia Power customers also got a raise, a raise in their bills, to pay for the new nukes at Plant Vogtle years before anyone will see electricity from them (if ever), due to that same 2009 law, “Energy Rate Increases to Finance Nuclear Power Plant Construction”.

More about that and other Q&A later with videos. Just after the meeting I asked when the videos taken with SO’s professional equipment would be available on the web. I was told later that same afternoon. Can anybody else see them? All I find is the presentation slides and sound, and the sound stops before the Q&A starts. Not to worry: I took video, which will be up in the next few days, including all the Q&A. For now, here’s a picture of Seth Gunning of the Georgia Sierra Club, and some text below.

Kristi E. Swartz wrote for the AJC yesterday, Southern Co.’s shareholders push for more use of solar, renewables,

First came the praise. Then came the questions.

That’s pretty accurate, although the AJC soft-pedaled both.

Shareholders at Atlanta-based Southern Co.’s annual meeting Wednesday applauded the utility for closing some coal-fired units, increasing its use of natural gas and adding solar, wind and biomass to the energy mix.

But those who spoke during the hourlong question-and-answer session reminded Southern chairman and CEO Tom Fanning of his “I’m bullish on solar” statement at the company’s annual meeting a year ago and asked whether he really meant it.

I heard CEO Fanning say that he thought solar might be ready for the southeast maybe by the end of this decade. He thinks we need thin film and a smart grid first.

“What we’ve got to do is plant a reliable system … what we have to do is to be able to handle the swings on the electric network when in fact they aren’t at 100 [percent],” Fanning said.

He also said (transcribed from video):

One of the things we should be very proud about Southern Company is that we are a company that is engaged in offering solutions, not just rhetoric. We remain the only company engaged in proprietary research and development. We’re the only company in America today that has a 1600 person engineering and construction services group. So we have the credibility to be able to deliver what our words say.

In Q&A I pointed out to him, with that R&D, SO is just the company to figure out and deploy the smart grid!

When CEO Fanning introduced himself to me during the socializing before the meeting, I asked if he would support me being able to sell power from my solar panels to someone in Atlanta. He said there were nuances in Georgia’s territoriality law that made that difficult. I remarked that he would be just the person who could get that fixed! Others agreed he did have some influence. He laughed and suddenly got drawn away to talk to somebody else.