Southern Company, Georgia Power announce executive leadership changes

Georgia Power chairman and CEO Chris Womack to take the reins at parent company, Southern
Thomas Fanning, left, the current chairman and CEO of Southern Company, and Chris Womack, the current chairman and CEO of Georgia Power. (James Schnepf & Contributed)

Credit: James Schnepf & Contributed

Credit: James Schnepf & Contributed

Thomas Fanning, left, the current chairman and CEO of Southern Company, and Chris Womack, the current chairman and CEO of Georgia Power. (James Schnepf & Contributed)

Southern Company, the Atlanta-based utility giant announced a major shake-up in its leadership ranks that will see the current head of its largest subsidiary, Georgia Power, assume control of the company.

Southern said in a news release Thursday that Georgia Power president, chairman and CEO Chris Womack has been appointed by the board of directors to lead the parent company. Southern operates a constellation of electricity and energy companies serving customers in Georgia and across the Southeast.

Womack’s appointment as Southern Co., president will be effective March 31, taking the reins from Thomas Fanning, its current chairman of the board, president and CEO. At the conclusion of the company’s annual shareholder meeting later this year, Womack will also assume the mantle of CEO from Fanning.

A native of Greenville, Ala., with more than three decades of experience at Southern and its subsidiaries, Womack became president of Georgia Power in 2020 and added chairman and CEO to his resume a year later. He was the first Black man to hold the company’s top jobs in its more than 100-year history. When he assumes leadership of Southern, he will also be the first Black man in those roles.

Prior to joining Southern, Womack worked in various roles on Capitol Hill, including as a legislative aide for then-Congressman Leon Panetta.

Fanning, who has led Southern since 2010, is relinquishing most of those roles, but will maintain his post as the executive chairman of the board of directors. In recent interviews and on the company’s last earnings call, Fanning, who is 65, was frank that he was likely to step away from leading Southern in the near future.

In a statement, he praised Womack as a leader well-suited to take charge of Southern, as the company — and other utilities — attempt an unprecedented transition from heavy reliance on fossil fuels for generating electricity to renewable sources, like solar. The change also comes as the two long-delayed and over-budget nuclear reactors being built at Plant Vogtle near Augusta appear to be nearing completion, more than five years after they were expected to be online.

“Chris’ leadership, vision and integrity during his career with Southern Company have uniquely prepared him to guide Southern Company into a new era,” said Fanning. “With our recent progress at Plant Vogtle and continued conversion of our operations towards net zero emissions, I believe that now is an ideal time to transition to new leadership.”

Since the mid-2000s, Southern and its subsidiaries have phased out many of their coal-fired power plants, in favor of more renewables. Still, the company relies on natural gas — a fossil fuel that produces enormous amounts of climate-warming emissions — for almost half of its energy.

In a statement, Womack recognized the challenges posed by the ongoing energy transition, but said he was eager to lead the company through them.

“We’re building the future of energy, and I’m excited to continue playing a role in this new capacity,” Womack said. “It is an honor to lead teams working in states across the country that are wholeheartedly dedicated to innovating and delivering both world-class customer service and reliability to our customers.”

As a result of Womack’s move to lead Southern, the company said Kimberly Greene has been appointed the new president, chairman and CEO of Georgia Power. Greene, who has held the same roles since 2018 at Southern Company Gas, will transition to leading Georgia Power effective March 31.

Greene’s appointment is also a historic first for Georgia Power, as she is set to become the first woman to hold the top posts at the company.