Thomas Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Co., said the U.S. coal industry is “under attack” and that nuclear power needs to be a factor in future U.S. power generation.
In a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Fanning addressed national energy policy, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Fanning said the two major elements of a national energy policy are a full portfolio of energy resources, including coal, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency, and a "robust" national research and development effort to create new energy technologies.
Fanning said events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan should not get in the way of a U.S. nuclear renaissance. Southern Co. is waiting for regulatory approval to build new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle in Georgia.
“Rest assured, we will continue to focus on safety and be diligent in making sure that our plants remain as safe and efficient as possible,” Fanning said. “But let's not let politics hinder our progress in this nuclear renaissance. Nuclear energy must remain a part of our future.”
Fanning said coal-fired generation is “under attack” and the industry will be hit by costly upgrades and installations of emission control technology. He called the time frame to meet new regulations "unreasonable." Fanning also said that while the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for regulating power plant emissions, the regulatory agency should not do the job of Congress.
“They must set regulations around policy. But they do not set policy,” Fanning said. “That is the job of Congress which is accountable to all Americans.”
Fanning said that while the price of natural gas is currently low, making it competitive with coal and renewables, the price is still volatile and is not good for American business.
“If that’s your only future generation resource, then that volatility will only increase,” Fanning said.
He also said that hydraulic fracturing shale formations to recover natural gas is economical but can cause environmental problems.
Fanning said renewable generating sources are “exciting,” but present their own challenges.
“Considering the consequences of the need for long-distance transmission, back-up generation and artificial cost subsidization, renewable technologies will likely have a marginal impact for some time to come,” Fanning said.
To date, Southern’s energy efficiency programs have lowered peak demand by 3,400 MW. The company plans to spend an additional $1 billion until 2020 on energy efficiency, reducing peak demand by an additional 1,000 MW, Fanning said.
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