We need electricity in our homes, businesses, and society in general. Unfortunately, electric utility companies are among the worst companies for our planet. Gulf Power Company is an electric company provider in Northwest, Florida services 439,793 customers in 71 towns and communities in a 7,550 square mile radius.
In Newsweek’s Green Rankings 2012: U.S. Companies, of the 27 utility companies, Southern Company, Gulf Power’s parent company, ranked #18. They rank #461 of the 500 companies ranked in America. Their Green Score 39.1 is weighted on an environmental impact score of 45%, a management score of 45%, and a disclosure score of 10%.
The environmental impact score measures the environmental footprint of a company’s global operations. This includes emissions from water usage, greenhouse gases, and emissions that contribute to acid rain and smog.
Their environmental management score assesses how a company manages their environmental footprint. This score is based on their programs and initiatives to make a positive impact. Southern has a score of 55.1%, showing they are making superb efforts at management.
What Harm Could a Utility Company Cause?
Consider the environmental impact of air emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electricity generation is one of the highest reasons we have so much air emissions. Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and man-made carbon dioxide emissions all come from fossil fuel-fired power plants. This fills our environment with acid rain, smog, and haze.
The Balancing Act
So is there anything being done about this? You bet. Southern Company has dedicated themselves to offset their environmental footprints. They realize they have a social responsibility to their customers, their investors, and the planet as a whole.
In the Southern Company’s Strategic Approach to Conservation Leadership report, Chris Hobson, Chief Environmental Officer for Southern Company, states, “Our business is all about balancing our economic, environmental, and societal obligations”. They are working hard to offset their air emissions and improve the water & wetlands, land and wildlife. They have strategic measures in place to use energy wisely and work on alternative energy projects to prove they are carbon conscious.
Since 1992, Gulf Power has reduced their air emissions by 85% and invested $1 billion in clean air technologies. They have also shifted towards natural gas usage to provide cleaner electricity for their customers.
Gulf Power partners with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) as well as other organizations dedicated to protecting the wildlife in Northwest Florida and the Southeast. They invest millions in technology to reestablish the ecosystem, the bird conservation, and other wildlife in the area.
Water & Wetlands
Gulf Power has invested in a Five Star Restoration program with the help of 46 different organizations. This program supports 11 of Northwest Florida’s water restoration programs and protects Florida’s natural wetlands.
Carbon Conscious Energy
Gulf Power’s first renewable energy project was the Perdido Landfill Gas-to-Energy facility. This project focused on producing 3,200 kilowatts of electricity, powering over 900 homes through wind and geothermal HVAC systems. This program uses solar power for schools.
The NFWF Longleaf Pine Restoration program has restored over 17,700 acres of longleaf forests and improved over 122,000 acres of habitat in Florida.
The Power of Flight program addresses the conservation needs of species, restores, and manages habitats in the Southern states. There is also an environmental educational program targeting urban youth.
Small and large investors fund electric companies through major mutual funds. Gulf Power and Southern Company realize their effects and plans to give back as much as possible to help improve the planet. Those invested dollars will not go wasted. As long as companies such as the Southern Company and NFWF continue to partner and make major impacts with their economic and environmental efforts, other companies should soon follow suit to make our planet habitable for a while.
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Disclosure: I am a former employee of Gulf Power Company, I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.