Duke Energy 'committed to Raleigh for the long term, ' CEO Rogers tells business gathering

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Below are excerpts from remarks made today by Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers at the Triangle Business Journal’'s “"Power Breakfast,"” a gathering of business and community leaders held at the Raleigh Marriott City Central.

Thank you for being here. I look forward to our conversation and to hearing what’'s on your mind.

It’'s a privilege for Duke Energy to serve this community. Raleigh is central to our future. It’'s our state capital. It'’s also our company’'s new state headquarters. 

We’'re committed to Raleigh for the long term. I couldn’'t imagine it any other way.

How can you not like a city that one magazine rated as having the best quality of life in America? And another rated as one of the top U.S. cities "“getting smarter the fastest.”"

That’'s what I need – to get smarter faster. 

I surround myself with innovative thinkers and people with a passion for achieving the right results in the right way.

The Triangle has extraordinary talent – a mix of global companies, world-class universities and entrepreneurial spirit. 

In my opinion, this area demonstrates what’'s possible as our state reinvents itself in a changing economy.

We want to build on Progress Energy’'s proud history of service and civic involvement in Raleigh and Eastern North Carolina. 

That started here on Fayetteville Street more than a century ago.

We recognize that our future as a company is tied to the vitality of the communities we serve.

Duke Energy’'s State President for North Carolina is Brett Carter – now based in Raleigh, a block up the street.

He’'s here today, and I'’d like to ask him to stand. Many of you have met Brett.

If so, you know that he and his team are passionate about economic development and community involvement.

We’'re working with local leaders to build on the success of this community, and to strengthen communities across the state in the 83 counties we serve. 

One recent example: Duke Energy is a founding member of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster. 

This month, we joined others to announce a broader initiative – E4 Carolinas. The goal is a super-regional energy hub in the Carolinas. We can leverage the cluster of smart grid companies and other firms in the Triangle, and energy companies in the Charlotte area and South Carolina.

This is just one way we can work together to promote job creation and innovation. Who knows? It might even help bridge the divide between Raleigh and Charlotte.

We'’re now three months into the merger that combined two strong companies based in North Carolina for a century.  The 18-month approval process took its toll on everyone, especially employees. 

This was my third utility merger. Each one had its challenges, but this was the most difficult and most complicated.

We were rejected by FERC twice before reaching an acceptable proposal.

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.   

And I’'m sorry it created more anxiety about this merger. Some of you already viewed the merger with mixed feelings.

The board made the decision that it felt it needed to make. As I hope you can appreciate, this is all I will say about this because these matters are subject to current investigations.

What I can say is that we are moving forward. 

We’'re focused every day on delivering on the benefits of this merger – for our customers, communities and investors, as well as our employees.

For customers, that began Day One when we started jointly dispatching power across the Carolinas. 

Coupled with the other fuel savings, we will produce customer benefits of $650 million in the next few years.

We’'re also well along in completing staffing and stabilizing the organization. 

My experience in talking with employees is that they want to move forward too. They want to contribute to the success of this company.

Our employees are dedicated to our core mission of service – providing reliable, affordable, increasingly clean electricity to customers in safe, sustainable ways 24/7. 

We know millions of people count on us, even when they’'re not thinking about us.

Our merger and business strategy reflect changes in the utility industry. This is a capital-intensive, long-view business. Our nation'’s energy landscape is undergoing transformative change.

The changes are driven, in part, by new environmental rules and aging infrastructure; by the shale gas revolution; and by emerging technologies.

After years of relative stability, the price of electricity around the country is trending higher. 

Utilities are making large capital investments to replace aging plants, modernize the grid and meet new regulations.

As you may have read, Progress Energy Carolinas is getting ready to file its first general rate case in 25 years. Details to come next month. 

We know it’'s never a good time to raise rates. So we'’re doing all we can to promote energy efficiency and help low-income customers.

We'’re trying to anticipate and adapt to change in a way that moderates price increases and prepares for the future. 

That'’s one reason for the merger. Our new larger scale helps us raise the required capital at a lower cost.

The combination of these two companies will lead to lower costs. 

This decrease will help mitigate future rate increases driven by capital investments to upgrade our power system.

We’'re retiring older coal plants and building new high-efficiency units fueled by natural gas. 

We'’re investing in the digital grid, innovation and clean-energy sources.

And we'’re rethinking traditional utility business models, and searching for new ways to partner with customers.

I'’ll stop now because I want to get the two-way, question-and-answer part of this conversation going.

Thank you again for coming this morning. It’'s a privilege for me to be here. 

Duke Energy is strongly committed to this community and to the future we can build together.