Charles D. McCrary
Writing the Playbook for Power Production
Inducted in 2003
At the century’s turning, Charles D. McCrary tossed a challenge to Southern Company’s dozens of individual generating plants. Team up, he urged, share best practices and efficiencies, and become the world’s best. Pursuing Mr. McCrary’s vision, staffs overcame insular operating systems to develop an electricity utility playbook of sorts. The document laid out common standards and consistencies, and the practices that best achieve them. All Southern Company plants now play by this book in delivering power; one reason Alabama Power can provide reliable electricity at prices well below the national average.
When the plants were uniting, Mr. McCrary presided over Southern Company Generation and Energy Marketing. His ideas prepared Southern Company for an evolving industry. As the wholesale energy market emerged, Southern faced burgeoning competition head on. One of the largest U.S. electric utilities, it out-strategized blackouts and skyrocketing rates — thanks to the playbook. Strong, insightful leadership from Mr. McCrary ensured that the state’s economy remained powered, its quality of life bright.
Named president and CEO of Alabama Power Company in 2001, Mr. McCrary brought his culture of consistently applied best practices to a wider milieu. Because he cares about the industry’s environmental impact, efficiency figures into each best practice. While president of Southern Electric Railroad, Mr. McCrary devised ways to ship fuel to generating plants efficiently via 11,000 rail cars. More recently, he devised procedures that cut plants’ idle time due to equipment failures.
Southern Company Generation under Mr. McCrary became not only the Southeast’s largest electric producer, but a leader in environmental awareness. Emissions from the company’s generating plants have fallen significantly in the past decade, while more electricity was delivered to customers. These delivery gains were often the result of Alabama Power-developed technology. In 2001, employees joined scientists for initial field tests of a system that trims mercury emissions, and also tested switchgrass as a fuel for traditional coal-fired plants. Last summer, Mr. McCrary unveiled SCR ozone-reducing technology at a Jefferson County steam plant. By 2010, under Mr. McCrary, Alabama Power will have invested $1.5 billion in “green” technologies for its generating units.
Mr. McCrary is an Auburn University alumnus, earning a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering in 1973. In addition, he graduated from Birmingham School of Law. Signing on with Alabama Power Company after graduation, he accepted positions of increasing responsibility, many of them in environmental affairs. For three years he served as vice president of Southern Nuclear, and for three more, senior vice president for external affairs at Alabama Power. Four years as the company’s executive vice president brought Mr. McCrary to Southern Company Generation.
Mr. McCrary’s civic activities include chairing both the Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Arts Council. A sampling of the directorate boards he serves includes the Business Council of Alabama, Children’s Hospital, Alabama Archives and History Foundation, and the Boy Scouts. His concern for education’s future is expressed through work with Vestavia Hills City Schools Foundation, Birmingham-Southern College trustees, and the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council. He shapes his industry’s future as a national director of the National Association of Manufacturers and Southeastern Electric Exchange. He co-chairs the Coal Utilization Research Council and serves on Edison Electric Institute’s Environmental Policy Committee.
Mr. McCrary is the son of Douglas McCrary, who joined Alabama Power in 1953, rising to CEO at Gulf Power in 1983. Charles McCrary is married to fellow Birmingham native Phyllis Brantley McCrary. The couple has two sons, one of whom studies at his father’s alma mater. Among his hobbies, Mr. McCrary enjoys restoring old jukeboxes.