The quality of life for the people of Alabama is better because of Larry Monroe’s attention to environmental innovation. His research and development efforts made a significant bottom-line impact in the production of clean, affordable electricity. He served as a public leader, industry expert and a research innovator to make the environment a better place, leaving a legacy sure to be felt by generations to come.
Monroe demonstrated his commitment to protecting and conserving natural resources through research and development in academia as well as government and industry research. He retired as Southern Company’s chief environmental officer in 2017.
Growing up in Arab, he graduated from Auburn University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He went on to earn his doctoral degree, also in chemical engineering, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989. He arrived back in Alabama in 1990 to work for the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham. As manager of combustion research, he performed and completed more than $15 million in projects for the federal Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and the Electric Power Research Institute.
In 1998, he joined Southern Company and served in a wide variety of capacities, including research consultant and program manager, before his leap to chief environmental officer and senior vice president of research and environmental affairs. In this role, Monroe led Southern Company through an intense period of federal environmental rulemaking, including significant regulations on greenhouse gases, water quality and coal ash. He also spearheaded the expansion of the company’s research and development activities to address the transition of the utility industry into a more highly competitive environment.
Among his work was groundbreaking research on mercury control from power plants at Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston in Wilsonville, which highlighted mercury emissions and regulations. Garnering national media attention, the work also garnered an R&D 100 Award from R&D magazine in 2003.
In an effort that improved air quality across central Alabama, Monroe proved the selective catalytic reactors for control of nitrogen oxides could work for Alabama Power’s largest coal-fired plant at Plant Miller in Quinton. Successfully installed on all four units, the technology reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides by 80 percent.
His environmental research impact also stretches to Plant Barry in Bucks. A team under his supervision performed the first carbon dioxide capture and sequestration project on an operating coal-fired power plant in the U.S. The significance of this first-of-its kind research earned two R&D 100 awards in 2015.
Nationally recognized, Monroe testified before both chambers of Congress on developing technologies for coal-fired power plants on behalf of Southern Company, and also took his environmental message to the Public Service Commissions of Georgia and Mississippi.
Included among his honors is being ranked in 2013 as No. 16 among the top 25 most influential people in the power industry during the past 25 years, according to Power Engineering magazine. He was also honored by the Electric Power Research Institute with six technology transfer awards, which recognize leaders who transfer research into applied results. In late 2017, he was appointed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator to serve on EPA’s Science Advisory Board.
His service to his alma mater includes membership on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council and the Auburn University Research Advisory Board.