Herald-Sun editorial: Settlement reached on Duke Energy

Dec. 05, 2012 @ 06:26 PM

It is hard for the average consumer to know just what to make of the recent news on the Duke Energy settlement agreement. We can all hope that the deal will provide benefits to customers, but it is difficult to determine whether that will be the case. Time will tell.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved a settlement agreement on Monday, which ended an investigation into whether the commission was misled during negotiations during Duke Energy’s merger with Progress Energy.

An understanding was reached whereby Progress CEO Bill Johnson would take over as leader of the combined company, but a day after the merger closed, Duke announced that Jim Rogers would replace Johnson.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, Rogers will retire by the end of 2013. Rogers spoke last week as keynote speaker at the Duke University Energy Conference, a day before his departure was made public.

A settlement was also reached Monday between the utility and the state’s attorney general, and under that agreement, Duke Energy will have an independent entity survey North Carolina customers about utility service, among other measures.

“These settlements are positive for consumers and help to set right the problems surrounding the merger,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. “As we continue our fight for lower rates in the Supreme Court and before the commission, these settlements will provide a framework for ensuring more complete and accurate information from Duke Energy in the future.”

The North Carolina president of Duke Energy, Brett Carter, spoke at the recent Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum. He spoke about the savings that customers will benefit from under terms of the agreement: $650 million in fuel and fuel-related costs, and $25 million in fuel savings for North Carolina customers.

“I want you all to realize that we are very focused on the Durham area, we're going to continue to move things forward with our economic and business development efforts,” Carter said. He also spoke about forthcoming rate increases requested by the utility: “Our costs are very competitive when you think about the value…we know we’re in a rising cost environment. We want to keep it competitive.”

We will take a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to how the merger will affect North Carolina customers over the long haul. The merger has been full of twists and turns so far.