Duke Energy is an electric utility company based in Charlotte, NC. Duke Energy’s origins stem back to 1900 from a small hydroelectric company called the Catawba Power Company, which evolved into Duke Power and eventually into Duke Energy after a 1997 merger with PanEnergy. As of the third quarter of 2011, Duke Energy held more than $60 billion in assets, while pulling a gross operating profit of more than $5 billion in 2010.
Duke Energy was poised to become the nation’s largest utility company on January 1, 2012, as it planned to purchase Progress Energy, based in Raleigh. The new company (which will continue under the name Duke Energy) would supply more than 7 million customers. The first proposal for the merger was rejected by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on September 20, 2011 on the grounds that the merger would have a negative impact on competition in the Southeast electricity market. In December the proposal was once again rejected by FERC, stating that the revisions of capping their profit at 10% of some wholesale power sales were inadequate. In June 2012, however, the Duke-Progress merger was conditionally approved by FERC, allowing the $26-billion deal to move ahead.
The merger also posed concerns among environmental groups, who argued that the merger between Duke and Progress would give the new Duke Energy company such a hold on the electricity market [PDF] as to minimize entry for independent renewables. The merger would also likely increase Duke Energy’s dependence on “less efficient, higher-polluting coal” plants.
Although Bill Johnson, former CEO of Progress Energy, was originally set to be become president and board director of the merged company, within hours of the first day after the merger, Johnson unexpectedly resigned, with Jim Rogers taking his place as CEO. As a result, suspicions have been raised, causing the North Carolina Utilities Commission and Attorney General to conduct separate investigations on Rogers.
Further speculation was raised when Rogers testified before the N.C. Utilities Commission, stating that Johnson's management practices were "autocratic" and weak, which fueled the CEO switch. John Mullin III, a Progress Energy director, describes the situation as “the most blatant example of corporate deceit that I have witnessed during a long career on Wall Street.”
About 67% of Duke Energy’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, mainly coal (about 63%), while 31% of the company's generation is from nuclear power and 1.5% comes from hydro. Just over a half percent of Duke’s electricity is generated from non-hydro renewables. 63% of Progress’ electricity comes from fossil fuels, with another 34% from nuclear, and 2% from non-hydro renewables.
The overall average operation age of Duke Energy coal-fired power plants is 47 years.