Today, Duke Energy and Progress Energy finalized their long awaited merger agreement to become the largest utility company in the country. Now that the nearly two year process is complete, the combined utility will serve 7.1 million rate payers in six states in addition to having merchant generation throughout the United States and Latin America.
They will be big, but will they be a leader?
With great power comes great responsibility to act. Now that Duke is the biggest utility, the world is watching to see if Duke will be the best – most efficient, most sustainable, most cost effective and forward thinking – utility in the country.
Right now, the jury is out on whether the company will be a leader in innovating the energy marketplace – or if they will continue to rely overwhelmingly on coal, gas and nuclear energy. As all signs point to continued use of fossil fuel and nuclear energy, we have doubts about the sincerity of their rhetoric. Later this year Duke’s new coal plants – Edwardsport IGCC and Cliffside 6 – paid for by their ratepayers in Indiana and North Carolina come online. Building new coal plants simply isn’t sustainable.
For years Duke Energy has rhetorically separated themselves from the rest of utility pack. However, if the current coal-fired power plant retirement picture stays the same, they stand to be the largest coal burner by 2015. They are still sourcing their coal from the blown up mountains of Appalachia and will soon be doubling down on fracked natural gas, from the Marcellus to North Carolina. Clearly there is a disconnect between what Duke says and what they do.
That is an injustice, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Even today as record heat spreads across the country, Colorado is on fire, and Florida is still under water, Duke is firing up one of its oldest coal plants, the Riverbend Steam Station – first brought online in 1929. An ominous sign of things to come.
Until Duke becomes the clean energy leader they’ve long imagined themselves we will campaign to shift their investment decisions away from fossil fuels and towards a distributed, democratic and sustainable business.
The ball is in their court.