Duke, Progress Energy Merger approved

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Two state investigations into Duke Energy's merger with Progress Energy closed on Monday, with the North Carolina Utilities Commission approving its settlement with the electricity giant and the state Attorney General, Roy Cooper, announcing his own settlement.

The settlement with state regulators included an additional $25 million in promised savings to customers, increasing the total promised savings over five years to $675 million.

Cooper's settlement includes a requirement that Duke appoint a liaison to his office that gives him information on potential rate hikes sooner.

"It would give us the ability to know what they're asking for earlier and for us to make decisions on behalf of the consuming public as to whether we want to intervene in these cases," he said.

The agreement also requires Duke to hire an independent company to survey all North Carolina customers about their rates and service.

Duke Energy will pay for it and report back to Cooper's office within a year on results and what it plans to do.

"I think we could certainly talk to Duke about making changes," Cooper said. "Potentially, there could be some motion in front of the utilities commission."

But Wake Forest University School of Business professor Dan Fogel is skeptical.

He said the AG's office already has open lines of communication with Duke Energy.

"Formalizing the role is not going to do anything, because they can always ask for information," he said. "Duke's not going to ignore the AG of North Carolina."

He also doesn't believe the survey's findings will help customers.

"I don't think it has anything to do with customers," he said. "I really don't think it's going it impact them at all. They're going to do a little survey, find out some information, but they do surveys all the time."

There's also push-back from consumer group NC Warn. It filed documents Monday opposing Duke's agreement with regulators, stating that regulators should not have approved their agreement without holding a formal, evidentiary hearing.

Jim Warren, Executive Director of NC Warn, said they plan to sue the utilities commission. Warren said he believes Cooper owes it to consumers to release his findings from his investigation.

Cooper said no.

As part of the agreement, Duke Energy will pay Cooper's office about $250,000 to cover the costs of the investigation.