Duke Energy

A series of hearings begins today to examine how Duke Energy wants to invest in power sources over the next 20 years.  The state Utilities Commission is set to hear from the utility and consumer advocacy groups about its annual Integrated Resource Plan.  Duke Energy spokesman Mike Hughes says the utility plans to open new plants to keep up with North Carolina's population growth.

"Even if the per-household use of electricity is declining, the overall use of electricity is increasing," Hughes says.

Duke Energy officials have decided to retire a controversial nuclear facility in Florida.  They say it will be more cost effective to shut down the Crystal River facility than to repair it.  Regulatory leaders in North Carolina and Florida discussed Crystal River's future during the merger of Duke Energy and  Progress Energy.  Spokesman Mike Hughes says the utility used a repair scenario analysis to make the decision.

The first of three City Council subcommittee meetings takes place Monday morning as lawmakers begin drafting a new tree ordinance for the city. Strong turnout is expected from residents, many of who were outraged last month after Duke Energy cut down dozens of trees in residential neighborhoods.

Credit Jeff Tiberii

Many residents in Greensboro are upset with Duke Energy over the company's practice of pruning, and in some cases cutting, neighborhood trees. Frustrated citizens started two Facebook groups, collected 15-hundred signatures for a petition and demanded that local leaders step in and help.

Ten Years ago sub contractors for Duke Energy made the rounds in several Greensboro neighborhoods, trimming and cutting trees that were too close to power lines. It sent residents who felt the pruning was too aggressive into an uproar. They complained to elected officials and Duke eventually heard about it, but nothing really changed. In fact nothing really happened at all. Last month crews returned to some neighborhoods for the first time in a decade.

State regulators have accepted the terms of a settlement with Duke Energy over its merger with Progress Energy.

The utility commission's vote was unanimous on the agreement terms announced last week. Duke Energy will move ahead with changes that include Jim Rogers' retirement as C-E-O. He plans to spend another year running the company But spokesman Tom Williams says Rogers could step away sooner.

The state attorney general's office is going before the state Supreme Court to challenge a rate increase for Duke Energy.

North Carolinians are stepping up to help people in the mid-Atlantic and New England states affected by the storm. Duke Energy is sending crews to help restore power. Dave Scanzoni is a spokesman for the utility.

Dave Scanzoni:" Duke Energy has committed to send about 12-hundred line workers to the Northeast and impacted areas from Hurricane Sandy. These crews will mostly be contractors that work full time for Duke Energy largely in Florida and some from our territories in Indiana as well."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will check the Harris nuclear plant near Raleigh to ensure Duke Energy has fixed an unreported problem.

Progress Energy ran the plant before this year's merger with Duke Energy. An air conditioning system at an emergency operations facility was not in top working order starting in 2009. The utility fixed the problem two years later. Duke Energy spokeswoman Julie Milstead says the utility thought the issue was over. She says, "We did not report that to the NRC because we did not think it met the criteria for reportability."

Duke Energy may have to pay billions of dollars to repair the Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida.

A Charlotte engineering firm says the cost to fix a cracking outer-concrete layer of the containment unit could reach 3-point-4 billion dollars. Utility spokesman Mike Hughes says that's a worst-case scenario.

Mike Hughes: "Including having to do additional repair work that is not part of the planned repair scope."

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers was in Florida's capital of Tallahassee yesterday to testify before power regulators there. the members of the Florida Public Service Commission questioned Rogers on the leadership change at the utility and about a failing nuclear facility in that state. Rogers said despite the issues the company faces, the Sunshine State is important to the company's future.

Duke Energy announced its first in a series of rate cuts.

Leoneda Inge:  Duke Energy and Progress Energy promised if the companies were allowed to merge they would implement millions of dollars in utility rate cuts one month after the merger was approved.  The first round of cuts comes to about 89-million dollars.

Inge:  Yeah, I was just about to say, it’s about a dollar a month, hugh?

Tom Williams: It’s about a dollar month, but you know we have just begun this process

Some new legal minds will be taking a look at the controversial Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger.

Duke Energy is looking for new board members since the resignation of two former Progress Energy directors. 

The watch-dog group NC Warn continues to fight against the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy.  Yesterday the group filed motions with state regulators to try to re-open the merger hearings.

Leoneda Inge:  One claim NC Warn is making involves more than two-billion dollars Duke Energy plans to spend repairing and upgrading Progress Energy’s nuclear plants.   Jim Warren is executive director of NC Warn. He says Duke Power never disclosed that figure during the merger hearings. Warren fears customers will end up paying in the end.

There were signs early in the Duke-Progress Energy merger process that Bill Johnson would not have a long tenure at the combined company.  Ann Gray is the lead director on the Duke Energy board of directors.   She told the North Carolina Utilities Commission today the board did not have a good impression of Johnson at one of their first meetings in 2010.

Ann Gray:  He did describe himself as being an individual who likes to learn but not be taught. That was an expression that stayed with our board and we watched for that to develop.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission spent hours yesterday questioning ousted Duke Energy CEO Bill Johnson.  The former Progress Energy leader says he was stunned by the controversial turn of events that transpired once the two companies merged.

Edward Finley:  There were no issues with respect to who would be the president and who would be the CEO.

Bill Johnson:  No, there were a lot of interesting questions and issues in the hearings, but that was not one of them.

The merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy was supposed to be a powerful marriage of relative equals, but from the moment they combined, the problems started. The board of the new company ousted one of its new leaders, sparking investigations and cries of betrayal. Host Frank Stasio talks to News & Observer reporter John Murawski about the controversy.

State regulators had some tough questions for Duke Energy’s CEO at a hearing in Raleigh yesterday. They wanted to know why the company switched CEOs as soon as its merger with Progress Energy was completed.

Ed Finley: Mr. Rogers, if you'll come around and be sworn please.

Duke Energy is now the largest utility in the country. But the company is moving forward without its expected leader.

Gurnal Scott: Duke Energy held a conference call with reporters to mark the merger's completion. And board member Anne Maynard Gray had another announcement.

Anne Maynard Gray: Bill Johnson has resigned as president and chief executive officer of the combined company by mutual agreement with the board.

North Carolina utilities regulators have approved the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy, the last major hurdle to creating the largest American electric company. North Carolina Utilities Commission Chairman Edward Finley Jr. said Friday the deal was the best possible in an environment of energy industry consolidation. Finley says it was preferable for the two North Carolina-based companies to combine rather than be bought up by a company elsewhere. Conditions to the merger include the companies passing along at least $650 million in savings to customers.

The decision to permit a Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger in now in the hands of state regulators.

Gurnal Scott: North Carolina Utilities Commission chairman Ed Finley was non-committal after yesterday's hearing.

Duke Energy officials hope a state Utilities Commission hearing today is the final hurdle before a merger with Progress Energy is complete.

Gurnal Scott: The commissioners will hear from company leaders about how consumers will be protected as Duke Energy seeks to become the nation's largest utility. Spokesman Tom Williams says the last year and a half since announcing the 26 billion dollar merger has prepared them.

RTI International has been awarded 4-point8-million dollars to develop technology to help reduce the energy needed to power manufacturing facilities.

Leoneda Inge:  RTI International will partner with Duke University and Veolia Water Solutions in Cary to develop a system that will allow heat from industrial processes to treat waste-water.  David Danielson is Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the US Department of Energy.  He says his office is funding 13 projects in this first round.

Duke and Progress Energy have filed an updated merger plan with federal regulators.  The companies filed a “market power” mitigation plan they hope will move the process along.

It could be six months before the Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger is complete.

A Durham-based environmental group warns utility companies are trying to add nuclear capacity without significantly reducing their use of coal power. A report from NC WARN focuses on what they call the "Southeast Five." That includes both Duke Energy and Progress Energy. Jim Warren is executive director of NC WARN.

State regulators continue a hearing today about whether Duke Energy and Progress Energy should merge.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission will hear testimony Tuesday on the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy. The Commission will hear from company officials in favor and from environmental groups opposed to the merger. Tom Williams is a spokesman for Duke Energy.

Several environmental groups have filed a challenge to the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy. The merger between the two North Carolina-based companies would create the country's largest utility. Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Gudrun Thompson says that makes Duke and Progress responsible for leading the way in developing clean energy resources.

An exemption for biomass facilities from carbon dioxide limits under the Clean Air Act is being challenged in court. The Environmental Protection Agency is exempting biomass facilities from the rules for the next three years because they're considered carbon-neutral or low-carbon emitters. Frank Rambo is the senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center working on that case.

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