Opponents of Duke Energy merger say meeting lacked answers

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Opponents of a merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy who raised questions at a shareholder meeting last month have met with Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers.

The meeting was held just days from a possible merger that would make the combined energy company the biggest in the nation.

Some people said they held shares in the company so they could attend shareholder meetings but felt they did not get all the answers they needed in the time allotted.

The group said with Duke Energy on the verge of becoming the largest utility company in the nation, it has a lot of power to shift the country's focus more to clean energy.

While they said they appreciated the meeting, they were not happy afterwards.

"I was quite disappointed that the bottom line seems to be -- for Duke Energy -- business as usual," Jim Warren, the executive director of NC Warn, said.

Warren wants Duke Energy to shift away from coal and nuclear power and pursue more solar, wind and other clean technologies.

Warren’s is an argument protesters made in uptown Charlotte last month outside Duke Energy's annual shareholder meeting and in Mooresville, where people used a device to chain themselves to tracks and stop a train near a coal plant.

Duke Energy spokesman Tom Williams said they are moving to more renewable energy, but the shift cannot happen overnight.

"The facts are, our systems have gotten cleaner and cleaner every year over the last 15, 20 years, and we'll make more progress down the road," Williams said.

Opponents were also angry about an upcoming rate hike to pay for new coal and gas plants, especially after a 7 percent increase earlier this year.

"It's simply not sustainable for North Carolina's economy," Warren said.

Williams confirmed that the rate increase is coming despite opponents' demands to hold off.

"Those plants have to be paid for if we're going to stay a healthy company," Williams said.

He said when it comes to the merger, Duke Energy expects to hear a decision from the North Carolina Utilities Commission by the end of the week and hopes to wrap up the deal on Sunday.