Renewables Report from Southern Company forthcoming

Nonprofit As You Sow got mighty Southern Company to agree to report on renewable energy, which is the first step towards widespread adoption of solar power. How about taking on FPL next, about that Sabal Trail methane pipeline? And that green bond idea, how about our Industrial Authority take that up?

Dave Williams wrote for the Atlanta Business Chronicle yesterday, Southern Co. to report renewable energy spending,

Atlanta-based Southern Co. has agreed to produce a comprehensive report on its current renewable energy projects and plans for future development of renewables, an environmental organization reported Thursday.

The company’s decision prompted Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit As You Sow to withdraw a shareholder resolution asking Southern to consider President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, the group said in a news release.

“To achieve that goal, utilities need to immediately shift away from coal toward distributed and renewable energy,” said Amelia Timbers, energy program manager for As You Sow. “The agreement with Southern shows that a shift in the trajectory of the electric utility industry toward a healthy, low-carbon fuel mix is underway.

“In the last earnings call, investors wanted to know Southern’s plans for solar. Now, they will have that data.”

So, SO CEO Tom Fanning, are you tired of having SO downgraded due to lack of renewables? Is it time to show us that tiger team report?

It’s not just coal, it’s also fracked methane that’s part of the problem, according to the As You Sow PR of yesterday, Southern Company Agrees to Report on Its Actions to Capture Value from Renewable Energy Investments:
Shareholder Resolution Seeking Disclosure of Climate-Related Risks is Withdrawn;
Shift Follows Similar Agreement with FirstEnergy

“In an effort to provide the ‘cheapest’ power possible, Southern has historically focused on coal,” said Danielle Fugere, As You Sow President and Chief Counsel. “Yet we know that coal has enormous hidden costs in terms of public health, ecological damage, and disaster management. Southern Company’s actions to bring more renewable and distributed energy online should be a wake-up call to other utilities, public utility commissions, and politicians that energy policy should favor cleaner, cheaper, more innovative sources of energy.”

As You Sow has been engaging utilities around greenhouse gas reductions for over a decade, often focusing on reducing the financial risks related to continued reliance on coal. In addition, the Energy program continues to work with oil and gas producers on mitigating the negative environmental and community impacts of hydraulic fracturing operations, as well as addressing the risk of stranded carbon assets.

We bloggers have been blogging about all those points, and As You Sow is out there busily getting utilities to at least report about them. As we heard three years ago from Steve Kalland of NCSC, transparency is the key to to getting solar power deployed. Get examples on rooftops or solar farms in every county, and get utilities to report what they’re buying and what they’re using. North Carolina did that last through a state law, but getting multi-state Southern Company to agree to do it voluntarily is even better.

So, As You Sow, how about taking on FPL about the Sabal Trail methane pipeline?

And VLCIA, how about looking at As You Sow’s Green Bonds idea? You as our local Industrial Authority have the power to issue bonds, and instead of only doing that to buy land for industrial parks, you could issue green bonds for rooftop solar power.