Southern Company sees switch from coal to gas-fired generation

Southern Company, one of the largest utility companies in the U.S., has made a rapid and dramatic shift away from coal-fired generation to natural gas, according to Bloomberg.

Like many other electricity companies in the eastern U.S., Southern has traditionally relied primarily on coal for its power, using the fossil fuel to produce as much as 70 percent of its electricity in 2007.

Since that time, however, stricter environmental regulations and plummeting gas prices from the rapid expansion of shale gas production have led Southern to turn to natural gas-fired generation.

Coal power plants now account for only 35 percent of all Southern's electricity production, while natural gas-fired power plants have tripled their proportion to 47 percent from less than 16 percent. If current market conditions hold steady, the company projects that natural gas generation will reach 57 percent of its production by 2020.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Southern now purchases more than 2 percent of all the natural gas consumed in the country, making it the third largest utility customer in the U.S.

Market prospects for natural gas can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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