Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas agreed Friday with North Carolina’s consumer advocacy agency on added conditions to Duke’s $4.9 billion acquisition of Piedmont.
The agreement with the Public Staff, which advocates for utility customers, is an important step toward approval of the acquisition by the N.C. Utilities Commission. The commission will begin a hearing on July 18.
Friday’s agreement is intended to protect customers of both companies from the costs and risks associated with the acquisition. Key elements:
▪ A $10 million drop in customer bills over two years for Piedmont’s 725,000 N.C. customers to reflect expected cost savings from the deal.
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▪ At least $17.5 million in annual charitable contributions, for four years, in North Carolina by the combined companies.
▪ A $7.5 million commitment for energy efficiency aid for low-income customers and job training programs in the first year after the acquisition.
▪ Deletion of acquisition-related expenses, such as severance payments and legal fees, from customer bills.
The companies hope to close the deal by the end of the year.
Piedmont shareholders, Tennessee regulators and the Federal Trade Commission have already approved the deal. Piedmont serves about 1 million customers in the Carolinas and Tennessee.
The Public Staff’s agreement will smooth the way for approval by the N.C. Utilities Commission, but a half-dozen other entities are also parties to the case. They include Fayetteville’s public works commission, which is a Piedmont customer, and three environmental advocacy groups.
If the acquisition gets approval, Piedmont will keep its name and headquarters in Charlotte but operate as a unit of Duke Energy. Piedmont’s chairman, Tom Skains, will retire and join Duke’s board. Piedmont executive Frank Yoho will lead Duke’s natural gas operations.
“The combined company will build on Duke Energy’s and Piedmont’s strong tradition of customer service and community support, with an ongoing commitment to affordable energy, economic development and environmental stewardship,” Duke chairman and CEO Lynn Good said in a statement.