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Duke merger expected to power energy hub plans

Duke Energy’s planned merger with Raleigh-based Progress Energy will energize the Queen City’s plans to become an energy capital, Charlotte officials said.

This morning, Charlotte-based Duke said it is merging with Progress, in a $26 billion deal that will create the largest utility in the U.S.

Charlotte would remain the headquarters of the new company, which would continue to be called Duke Energy.

Charlotte officials said the announced merger, which must win approvals and is not expected to be finished until the end of this year, is a feather in the cap of the city as economic developers market the region as a hub for the energy sector.

“This is a good move for Charlotte and a good move for the state of North Carolina,” said Ronnie Bryant, president and CEO of Charlotte Regional Partnership, an organization promoting the city as an energy capital. “This solidifies us as the energy capital. We’ll be even more competitive.”

Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan said the merger news was an exciting day for the city.

“As the headquarters of the merged company, it makes us the home to the largest utility in the United States, with one of the largest nuclear fleets in the United States,” Morgan said. “It further strengthens our case as one of the new energy hubs in the country.”

The merger may also position Charlotte for additional economic development, he said.

“One of our strengths we are able to sell particularly to the manufacturing industry is cheap electricity,” he said. “We have very competitive electric rates. We don’t know what the impact of the merger will be, but it has been the case in the past when companies merge that rate holders see a reduction in rates. We don’t know if that will be the case, but the possibility will make us that much more competitive.”

Peter Schwarz, a professor of energy economics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Belk College of Business, said the merger will help Charlotte position itself as an energy capital.

“Overall, at least on paper, it sure makes a strong case as one of logical places to have an energy hub,” he said.

Mecklenburg Times Staff Writer Tara Ramsey contributed to this report.

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