- Southern Co., along with a coalition of other deep-pocketed fossil fuel interests, has been funding the research of one of the nation's best known climate skeptics, the New York Times reports.
- The group of fossil fuel companies and advocates committed more than $1.2 million to the research of Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, one of the few climate skeptics left in the field. Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of the utility holding company, gave more than $400,000 to Soon, even as its parent company increases investment in renewables and low-carbon energy sources.
- Southern Company Services was given anonymous pre-publication review of Soon's scientific articles, Inside Climate News reports. Soon described his papers as "deliverables" for both Southern Co. and other fossil fuel interests. Although Dr. Soon is an aerospace engineer and not a climate scientist, he has for years written articles attempting to link the changing climate with variations in the sun's energy, the New York Times report noted.
Like most utilities, Southern Co. is making significant investments in renewable energy and other low-carbon generation sources. The utility announced recently it is adding 99 MW of solar in Georgia, and its Gulf Power subsidiary in Florida last week unveiled plans for 180 MW of solar in the Sunshine State.
Southern Co. representatives have referred to the utility's desire to move toward a lower-carbon generation fleet in interviews with Utility Dive regarding the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia and the Kemper County coal gasification plant in Mississippi.
But now it appears as if the utility playing both sides of the issue. Freedom of Information Act requests filed by Greenpeace revealed that Southern Co., along with a variety of fossil fuel companies and secretive donor groups, has been funding a well-known climate skeptic's research and was granted anonymous pre-publication review of critical global warming studies.
When reached for comment, Southern Co. spokeswoman Jeannice Hall gave Utility Dive a statement:
"Southern Company funds a broad range of research on a matter of topics that have potentially significant public policy implications for our business. While the scientific and political discussions on climate change continue, Southern Company is focused on researching, developing and deploying innovative energy technologies to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity to customers."
Southern Co. representatives declined to respond to questions from Utility Dive regarding how the company's generation plans coalesce with its funding of research skeptical of climate change.