Duke Leadership Hearing Veers Into Substance

This blog was written by John D. Wilson, former Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | July 20, 2012 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Utilities
Former Progress CEO Bill Johnson’s emotional testimony suggested that Duke Energy leaders were seeking to exit the merger. (Source: NewsObserver.com)

Much of yesterday’s utility commission hearing seemed to focus on the personal story of Bill Johnson and his experience during the Duke – Progress merger. The dramatic testimony was likened by one person in attendance to “divorce court.”

The North Carolina Utilities Commission seemed interested in both the personal interactions of Duke and Progress leadership, as well as in the substantive issues that led to the leadership change. Notably, we learned that a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling fueled friction between the two companies. As John Downey reports,

“These frictions resulted in part from differences in assessments of the costs and risks of various elements of the (new) proposed mitigation plan,” Gray says in her statement. “There were also frictions resulting from the Duke board’s insistence that the companies engage in further discussions with the North Carolina Public Staff, following submission of the revised FERC plan, to try to ensure that the commitments Duke was making were achievable.”

As I discussed yesterday, there were widespread concerns that FERC would use the merger as a wedge to open up energy markets in the Southeast. North Carolina regulators sought assurances that the combined utility would not join a regional transmission organization (RTO). The tension over how to resolve this dilemma was evidently even greater than it seemed at the time.

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