Raleigh, N.C. — Duke Energy Corp. and the staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission have agreed to settle a state investigation into Duke’s ouster of its new chief executive immediately after its acquisition of Progress Energy Inc.
The settlement agreement, which will be presented Monday to the commission for its approval, also calls for added savings for electric customers and job commitments in Raleigh, which had been Progress’ headquarters.
“We’ve worked with the staff of the N.C. Utilities Commission and the Public Staff for several months to reach this agreement, which we believe is in the best interests of our customers, shareholders and employees. This is a positive step forward,” Duke spokesman Mike Hughes said.
As part of the settlement, Duke’s North Carolina customers will receive an extra $25 million in fuel and fuel-related cost savings beyond the $650 million the company initially promised, and Duke will up its $15 million contribution to workforce development and low-income assistance in North Carolina by another $5 million.
Duke raised its electric rates by 7 percent in February, and Progress is seeking its own rate increase next year.
The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office is conducting its own investigation into the merger, and spokeswoman Noelle Talley said that isn’t affected by Duke’s proposed settlement with the Utilities Commission.
Jim Warren with watchdog group NC WARN said Thursday’s announcement would do little to prevent rate increases.
“This is a gift to Duke Energy. There is little penalty in this for them,” Warren said. “It looks like the merger is a net public soaking instead of a savings.”