By John Downey
To win support for its $32 billion merger with Progress Energy, Duke Energy promised lump sum payments of least $1.67 million to municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives while promising large commercial and industrial customers programs to cut their electricity rates by up to 6 percent.
The deals were disclosed in a filing Duke and Progress made last week with the N.C. Utilities Commission. Duke, Progress and the groups the deals were made with had originally maintained the agreements were confidential. But the watchdog group N.C. WARN objected to sealing the agreement. On Aug. 14, the commission found that most of the information in the agreements did not qualify as trade secrets, and it ordered Duke and Progress to disclose most of the information.
The agreements that most directly affect rates are those that the power companies made with two groups that represent industrial customers — the Carolina Industrial Group for Fair Utility Rates and the Carolina Utilities Customer Association. Both agreed to revise very large customer rates to save those customers an average of 6 percent on their general rates. They also agreed to revise some more targeted rate schedules, such as charges for interruptible power for large customers.