Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers touched on all his talking points Thursday morning as the beleaguered chief executive continues making his speaking circuit around the state to reassure the public -- and public officials -- that the newly-merged electric utility can be trusted to act in the interest of the state and its residents.
Charlotte-based Duke has been under scrutiny since merging with Raleigh-based Progress Energy in July, and almost immediately firing Bill Johnson as CEO and reinstating Rogers at the top of what is now the nation's largest electric utility. The firing is under investigation by the N.C. Attorney General and also by the N.C. Utilities Commission, which had approved the merger with the understanding that Johnson would run the combined company.
"The CEO change at the end was a big surprise to this community in particular. That's not what we had in mind at the start of this long journey," Rogers told a group of business people in downtown Raleigh. "And I'm sorry it created more anxiety about this merger. Some of you already viewed the merger with mixed feelings."
Speaking at a business networking event at the downtown Raleigh Marriott hotel, Rogers emphasized all the issues that are important to the N.C. Utilities Commission: that Duke is committed to maintaining a significant presence of employees in Raleigh, that the company is passionate about the Triangle, and that the merger will deliver significant benefits.
The savings will come from two areas: from jointly operating power plants and from the elimination of 1,860 jobs over three years.
At the same time, he said that Progress would soon be filing for a rate increase to pay for transmission upgrades and new power plants. Duke is also expected to ask the N.C. Utilities Commission for a rate increase later this year.
Rogers also noted that the $32 billion deal was the most complicated utility merger he had ever done in his 20-plus years as CEO.
"We're focused every day on delivering on the benefits of this merger -- for our customers, communities and investors, as well as our employees," Rogers said.