Report: Georgia giant ranks low in alternative energy

When it comes to energy efficiency and use of solar, wind and other alternative energy, Georgia Power’s parent ranks low in a report on utilities nationally.

Atlanta-based Southern Co. includes Georgia Power with its 2.4 million customers, as well as Alabama Power, Mississippi Power and Gulf Power in Florida.

Southern ranked 31st among 32 utilities nationally in percentage of sales tied to electricity from renewables, according to Ceres, a non-profit active on issues such as climate change.

Ceres, working with a research and advisory firm called Clean Edge, also ranked Southern 26th out of 32 in terms of cumulative annual savings from energy efficiency programs.

Pressure is growing to improve energy efficiency and produce more energy from renewables in order to cut power plant carbon emissions believed to contribute to destructive climate change. Georgia utility regulators warn that federal proposals to cut carbon will restrict use of coal and drive energy costs up, a contention debated by some environmental groups.

Southern issued a statement about the Ceres report saying the power company “remains committed to developing a full portfolio of energy resources, including renewables.”

Georgia Power, it said, “is implementing the nation’s largest voluntary solar energy portfolio and expects to have nearly 900 MW online by the end of 2016.”

Even with that expected ten-fold increase in electricity from solar, renewables would account for a small piece of Georgia Power’s overall energy mix.

Southern said the viability of renewable resources varies nationally. Ceres, meanwhile, wrote that utilities in the Southeast deliver “modest” amounts of renewable energy “due, in large part, to weaker state renewable energy and energy efficiency policies.