Florida Waiting to Be Plugged into Duke Energy's Plans
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Already a significant energy company in Florida, Progress Energy is now backed by the largest electric power holding company in the United States.
The future of the Crystal River nuclear power plant remains under review, while the natural gas segment is expected to continue to play a significant role in Florida.
But as the leadership of Florida’s division of the company continues to see turnover, experts say it remains too early to project what Duke’s entry into Florida means for Floridians and the state’s energy giant Nextera Energy, the parent of Florida Power & Light Co., of Juno Beach.
Florida Office of Energy Director Patrick Sheehan simply responded that “the department will continue to monitor this merger with keen interest, especially in regard to choices the new merged entity makes in the areas of energy efficiency and conservation and fuel diversity.”
There's anticipation that Duke’s plans in Florida will become a little clearer on Monday when Jim Rogers, president of the Charlotte, N.C.-based company, appears before the Florida Public Service Commission, as they have requested, to discuss how the merger will impact the company’s more than 1.6 million customers in the Sunshine State.
What has caused potential shorts in making a long-term outlook is that leadership in Progress Energy Florida, the Florida division of the Raleigh-based Progress Energy, remains in flux.
Where once the Florida division, based in St. Petersburg, was deemed to be a golden location come the merger, away from the fallout expected when the offices in Raleigh and Charlotte were combined, instead word is that some upper level employees in the Sunshine State remain on edge.
The day the merger was finalized the Duke board replaced Progress CEO Bill Johnson.
Duke Energy has asserted that Johnson made a mess of the merger between the Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress Energy.
When the merger was announced, besides Johnson's departure, there was little information about the future direction of the company in Florida.
A July 5 release from Duke Energy noted that each share of Progress Energy common stock had been converted into the right to receive 0.87083 shares of Duke Energy common stock and that Duke Energy will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK.
But pushing Johnson out preceded other Progress executives and board members being shown the door.
Johnson’s departure has spawned an investigation by North Carolina’s utilities regulators and helped cause Standard & Poor’s to lower Duke Energy’s ratings. Duke has objected to the rating change.
Closer to home, on Wednesday Duke announced that Vincent Dolan, president of Progress Energy Florida, was retiring effective at the end of the year.
The company quickly named R. Alexander “Alex” Glenn, currently the Florida utility’s general counsel, to succeed Dolan.
No reason was given for Dolan’s decision.
David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, said he was surprised by Dolan’s announcement.
“Vinny was a great corporate citizen, he was very engaged in Florida public policy discussions on energy and he certainly had a team surrounding him that I think is still in place that will remain so, so I don’t know if they’ll miss a step there or not, we’ll see,” Mica said.
In a release, the company praised Dolan.
“Vinny has been an exemplary leader and a tireless advocate for Florida customers and for the company and its shareholders throughout his career,” Keith Trent, Duke Energy’s executive vice president for Regulated Utilities, stated in a release.
“Alex brings that same deep knowledge, proven leadership and commitment to work for the best possible balance of interests and perspectives of our company and customers,” Trent continued. “A transition period will ensure the change is seamless for customers, employees and the communities we serve.”
Dolan, 57, has been with Progress Energy since 1986. He had headed the company’s Florida utility, based in St. Petersburg, since 2009.
Glenn, 47, of St. Petersburg, has been with Progress Energy and Florida Power Corp. since 1996. He has been general counsel since 2008.
The move comes a week after the Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy announced its second quarter net income grew 2 percent from the same point a year earlier, earning $444 million on top of $3.58 billion in revenue.
The increase was due to higher electric rates and came as net income for Progress dropped 64 percent during the quarter.
The company claimed the drop was due to three nuclear reactors in the Carolinas being shut down for refueling.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.