Southern Company will continue to manage and operate the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC), located in Wilsonville, Alabama, for an additional five years under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy and its National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Under the funding award – which is valued at $140 million and was effective Oct. 1, 2020 – the internationally known research center will continue to serve as a neutral test bed for new innovations that lower carbon dioxide emissions.

DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and NETL renewed the collaborative agreement. As previously announced, the facility will be expanding into new areas of research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from fossil fuel-based power plants and to advance carbon utilization and direct air capture (DAC) solutions. DOE created the National Carbon Capture Center in 2009 to accelerate the development and commercialization of carbon capture technologies.

“Southern Company has partnered successfully with DOE and NETL to make the National Carbon Capture Center the nation’s premier R&D facility for carbon capture technologies,” said Dr. Mark Berry, Southern Company vice president of R&D. “We’re honored to renew this commitment for another five years, and to formally expand the center’s work on carbon capture for natural gas power plants – as well as carbon utilization and negative-emission technologies such as direct air capture. We believe broadening our research scope to include negative carbon solutions will prove critical in providing customers with clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy in a net zero future.”

In the past decade, more than 110,000 hours of technology testing has been completed at the NCCC for NETL, industry partners and developers from the U.S. and six other countries, successfully advancing a wide range of technologies toward commercial scale while improving their performance and reducing cost. The evaluation of over 60 technologies has already reduced the projected cost of carbon capture from fossil-fuel power generation by more than one-third. Further cost reductions are expected as the facility’s new infrastructure tests more carbon capture technologies for natural gas power plants.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with Southern Company and build on our successes by developing new technologies that further reduce the cost of capturing and reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” NETL Director Brian Anderson said. “The NCCC plays an important role in scaling up capture technologies and testing them under real-world conditions. Driving down the cost of and scaling up capture technologies will enable our nation to reduce its carbon footprint and produce reliable and affordable energy, ensuring growth and economic prosperity,”

Carbon capture, utilization and storage technology will provide an important pathway toward a low-carbon future. In 2018, Southern Company was the first electric and natural gas combination utility company to set a low- to no-carbon goal for its system. Southern Company earlier in 2020 issued a net zero operations goal for 2050.

Based on research and planning, the company expects some fossil fuels will likely remain a part of its system energy mix in 2050 and is defining pathways to incorporate negative carbon strategies – like those being researched at the NCCC – and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As of 2019, Southern Company has reduced GHG emissions 44% from baseline 2007 levels. The company now expects to achieve a 50% reduction in GHG emissions from 2007 levels as early as 2025, well ahead of its 2030 goal.