Duke said 450 took voluntary exit after Progress merger

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) CEO Jim Rogers informed the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) Oct. 3 that about 450 people have taken advantage of a voluntary severance program since Duke merged with Progress Energy in July.

Roughly 1,150 employees had applied for participation in the voluntary severance program (VSP), Rogers said in an Oct. 3 letter to the North Carolina commissioners. Nearly 450 of these have left the company under the program, Rogers said.

“Involuntary severance has been minimized; in fact, several business units are hiring, and we expect to open positions to internal and external candidates,” Rogers said.

“I am pleased to report all business units are on track to complete essentially all staffing by the end of October 2012,” Rogers said.

In the letter Rogers noted that a new wallboard factory was opening near Roxboro, N.C., and will “use gypsum created from the scrubber installations at Progress Energy’s Roxboro plant.”

The Duke CEO said the combined company remains on track to achieve the guaranteed $650m in fuel and joint-dispatch savings for customers in North Carolina and South Carolina. “Fuel savings are beginning to materialize and are expected to ramp up after we complete equipment upgrades designed to increase coal blending capabilities, scheduled this fall,” Rogers said.

The combined company’s nuclear management is “utilizing a fleet approach to improve refueling outage planning,” Rogers said.

Duke and Rogers have been trying to patch up relations with the NCUC. Some commission members have said publicly that they felt blindsided by the ouster of former Progress CEO Bill Johnson only hours after the merger closed and Johnson formally assumed the role of CEO for the combined company.

The board of directors then turned to Rogers, CEO of the incumbent Duke, to lead the combined company.

Operating trouble within the Progress Energy nuclear fleet was evidently among the issues that factored in Johnson’s departure.

Duke’s Progress Energy Florida subsidiary released a report Oct. 1 that indicated the worst case scenario cost for restarting the Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida could exceed $3bn. On Oct. 4, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said it was increasing oversight on Duke’s Harris nuclear plant near Raleigh, N.C.

The Harris plant had been cited by NRC for problems with the ventilation system at the station’s emergency operations center.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.