On-Site Power, Policy & Regulation

Southern Co. CEO tells CNBC that utilities must run business independent of politics

Southern Co. CEO Thomas Fanning told a nationwide audience Wednesday morning that U.S. corporate tax cuts benefited not only the company’s bottom line but services to customers.

“Tax reform had a terrific effect on us,” Fanning told CNBC’s Becky Quick during the televised interview. “We returned almost $2 billion in benefits to our customers.”

Southern reported fourth-quarter revenue of $5.34 billion, a year-over-year decrease from 2017 but close to $700 million higher than Wall Street estimates. Overall, the Atlanta-based utility holding company boasted more than $23 billion in annual revenue, 2 percent higher than the previous year.

A good economy and growth in southeast U.S. business climate—including a 1 percent rise in both retail electric sales and customer base in 2018—sparked the good report.

Fanning said the Southern plans to go long on capital expenditures over the next five years. In response to Quick’s question about how to create stability when presidential administrations often try to undo the previous leadership’s regulatory policies, the Southern CEO said the company is focused on “decades-long bets” and diversifying the generation resource investments.

“We have to run our business independent of administrations,” he said. “Energy policy done well is so important for the American economy.”

Southern Co. holds numerous utilities, including Georgia Power, Mississippi Power and Alabama Power. The company recently divested of several assets, including Gulf Power, in a deal with NextEra Energy.

Click here to see the full CNBC interivew with Fanning.