What Impact of Duke Merger on NC Utility Rates?
RALEIGH, N.C. - As the dust settles around the merger of Duke and Progress Energy, questions remain about the real impact the merger will have on consumers. The merger makes Duke the second-largest electric utility in the world.
Duke Energy and the state reached a settlement days ago, but John Runkle, attorney for NC Warn, a consumer watchdog group, questions what went on behind closed doors.
"The state's energy future is, right now, Duke's energy future. We're letting a monopoly really decide how North Carolina is going to spend its money on electricity."
When talk began of the Duke and Progress merger in 2011, there was a forecast of savings to consumers, but Runkle says that is in question because of newly disclosed costs Duke will incur, repairing and upgrading nuclear plants in the Southeast.
The merger was brokered in July and is expected to be in full effect within two to three years. Recent documents uncovered by NC Warn question whether Duke and Progress offered full disclosure of company information to state regulators. Runkle says that could impact consumers and as much as double their rates within the next 10 years.
"By the time you add in all those, the North Carolina ratepayers have very little, if any, savings out of this merger. Now Duke and Progress and their shareholders come out ahead of this."
For the next year or two, Duke and Progress will operate as two entities under the umbrella of Duke Energy. In October, Progress Energy Carolinas asked state regulators for a rate increase that would boost the average household electricity bill of its North Carolina customers by nearly $180 a year. Their proposed rate structure would charge consumers who use less electricity more per kilowatt than people using more electricity in larger homes.