It will cost Duke Energy $6.7 billion, but there are lots of reasons why the utility giant wants to merge with Piedmont Natural Gas.
For one, the merger would add a million customers and the state of Tennessee to Duke Energy's portfolio. For two, it would consolidate the electric and gas utilities into a hugely powerful mega-monopoly. And, as usual, it's the ratepayer— who actually prefers clean, renewable energy sources, like solar, over fracked gas and gross climate emissions—that will suffer.
An evidentiary and
public hearing on whether to allow the merger will happen before the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Monday at 2 p.m., because this can't happen soon enough. Duke Energy has already been able to fast-track review
of the merger by the Federal Trade Commission which, in late 2015, actually allowed termination of a thirty day waiting period for approval normally required by U.S. law.
And if you're in any doubt about what the Utility Commission's decision will be, note here that the public staff
—the ostensibly independent body charged with representing ratepayers' interests to the commission—has already recommended approval of the merger, and that four of the seven
current members of the commission were appointed by long-time- Duke Energy-employee-slash-manservant Governor Pat McCrory.
"Duke has opposed more access to solar for customers by their opposition to the Energy Freedom Act
, a bipartisan policy that would expand consumer choice of electric utilities in the state and expand solar purchasing opportunities," a Greenpeace press release states. "By trying to purchase this natural gas company, Duke Energy is prioritizing their fossil-fuel centered business model and not what the citizens of North Carolina are demanding."
Greenpeace says natural gas prices are risky long-term, and that investing in natural gas infrastructure would amplify greenhouse emissions.
"People want solar, freedom of choice about where their energy comes from and more than four percent renewable by 2030, which is Duke's extremely low goal in their long term plans," the group states.
Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless says the company has thirty-five solar farms in North Carolina and the state is third in the nation for solar, where the industry is growing at a rate second only to California's. He adds that Duke Energy's overall energy mix is 4.5 percent wind and solar and 7.8 percent renewable hydro.
Greenpeace will be protesting the merger outside the Dobbs Building at 430 North Salisbury Street beginning at 12:30 on Monday.