Sierra Club Launches New Report and Tools Exposing Southern Company’s ‘Greenwashing’ on Climate Pledges

New report analyzes and scores Southern Company’s decarbonization plans
Monday, January 25, 2021

Atlanta, GA -- Today, the Sierra Club released “The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges,” a report and accompanying interactive tool which grades utilities based on their plans to retire coal plants, stop building new gas plants, and invest in clean energy -- allowing the public to judge each utility’s climate progress and how it compares to what science demands. 

Southern Company made a bold promise to reach “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, yet the company’s subsidiaries in each state are not yet taking the steps necessary to decarbonize. According to the analysis, co-authored by Dr. Leah Stokes of University of California, Santa Barbara, Southern Company and all of its subsidiaries (Alabama Power, Georgia Power, and Mississippi Power) received an F grade.

Decarbonizing the electric sector by 80 percent by 2030 is crucial to prevent global temperature rise past 1.5C. This report assesses utilities on performance in three areas that are critical to protect the planet: 

  • Retire existing coal by 2030 

  • Terminate plans to build new gas

  • Build clean energy faster 

The report examines performance in achieving the three areas based on Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) and major announcements for 50 national utilities (79 operating companies). It gives each utility a letter grade based on a score out of 100. The companies reviewed in the report own half of all the remaining coal and gas generation in the country (1,310 million MWh). Alongside the report, the Sierra Club released an interactive dashboard that allows users to explore data for different utilities.

Stephen Stetson, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, released the following statement:

“Numbers don't lie. And unfortunately, the data doesn’t align with Southern Company’s net-zero emissions target and the company’s actual concrete plans to retire fossil fuel plants while adding renewables and prepping the grid for a clean energy transition. All three operating companies have been vague and glacial in announcing coal retirements, and Southern Company continues to plan on massive investments in new fracked gas infrastructure. These kinds of decisions have serious consequences, and without concrete benchmarks for getting coal off the grid, it makes it hard to praise Southern Company for a lofty commitment to decarbonize, especially given the urgency of the current moment.”

“It’s important to remember that Southern Company sees the burning of gas as a cornerstone of its ostensibly carbon neutral future, but the path forward should not involve fracking, methane, and gambling on carbon capturing technology that doesn’t exist yet. The smarter approach is using the tools we already have -- solar power and energy storage, cheaper than any time in human history, plus energy efficiency measures. Southern’s low report card score is a product of doubling down on dirty fossil energy sources, which is unfortunate when building renewables would both create jobs and save customers money.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit