“Energy is one of those areas where for all of our differences, people can come together,” said Tom Fanning, Southern Company chairman, president, and CEO, at a discussion about energy innovation with Jason Grumet at BPC. Fanning highlighted Southern Company’s leadership in shaping America’s energy future by developing a full portfolio of energy resources: nuclear, 21st-century coal, natural gas, renewables, and energy efficiency. After all, Fanning said, “For teams to be successful, you’ve got to be successful in a variety of environments.”


To that end, Fanning also discussed Southern Company’s Energy Innovation Center, which develops new products and services. Fanning is passionate about not being trapped by excellence. “Too much success can be a curse,” he said. It means that when employees hear new ideas, they’re likely to dismiss them because “we know what we’re doing.” Fanning said that attitude can build a rejection of innovation into DNA of the company. Instead, he said, “We’ve got to nurture revolutionaries.”


For Southern Company and Fanning, that means a research and development effort that doesn’t create ideas. It breaks them. “Give us your ideas and let us see if we can break them. If we can’t break them, they probably have commercial promise.”