Duke Energy has announced it will buy Piedmont Natural Gas for $4.9 billion dollars in cash.
Piedmont Natural Gas serves customers in almost every area of the state, outside the Triangle. Both companies are headquartered in Charlotte.
“This transaction consolidates our critical natural gas and power infrastructure into one company to greatly enhance customer service, safety, integrity, and reliability,” said Piedmont CEO Tom Skaines in a conference call.
The acquisition amounts to a doubling down by Duke Energy on the future of natural gas. The country’s largest utility company has closed a number of coal-fired plants in the past few years, in favor of natural gas plants.
“Abundant low-cost natural gas will become an increasingly important part of the nation’s energy mix as the shift away from coal continues,” said Lynn Good, Duke Energy CEO. “Duke Energy has been a leader in the coal-to-gas transition over the last decade and this acquisition further solidifies our leadership for the future.”
Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are already partners in an effort to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a controversial $5 billion dollar project that would bring shale gas from West Virginia, through Virginia, and into eastern North Carolina.
“By attempting to purchase Piedmont Natural Gas, Duke Energy is looking to expand its monopoly and lock North Carolina into dirty fossil fuels rather than the clean, renewable energy we deserve," said Monica Embrey with Greenpeace.
The deal requires a vote by shareholders of Piedmont, but not of Duke Energy. The State Utilities Commission and federal anti-trust regulators must also sign off on the deal. The companies hope to complete the transaction by the end of 2016.