A cooler September led to residential and commercial customers using less electricity, Southern said. Residential electricity sales decreased 6.9 percent, and commercial sales were down 3.4 percent. The number of Southern's customers held steady at 4.4 million.
Electricity sales from industrial customers rose 1.6 percent, however, further indicating that industrial production will lead economic development in the Southeast, company executives said.
"As industrial continues to grow, we think the jobs will show up, and we'll see recovery in residential and commercial customers," Fanning told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Any increase in manufacturing jobs has been offset by layoffs on the construction, financial services and public sector side, keeping Southern's customer base flat, Beattie told the AJC.
The company regularly consults with state and county officials, and executives point to more than 300 economic development-related projects that could potentially crop up in Southern's territory as reason to expect an increase in customer growth over the next several years.
"We still have reason to be bullish," Fanning said.