Duke Energy looking to buy ownership stakes in eastern N.C. plants

Duke Energy is looking to buy back ownership stakes in four power plants in central and Eastern North Carolina operated by the former Progress Energy.

The Charlotte utility said Monday that it was in discussions with the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency to buy its partial interests in a nuclear plant in Brunswick County, a coal plant in Person County, a nuclear plant in Person County and a nuclear plant in Wake County.

The municipal power agency provides electric service to 32 cities and towns in the eastern part of the state. Most of its energy comes from the agency’s ownership interests in those plants. Should the deal go through, the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency would buy wholesale power from Duke Energy to serve its customers.

It is unclear what effect, if any, the deal could have on electric rates. Any agreement would have to be approved by regulators.

The agency is affiliated with ElectriCities, the organization that also manages public power services for Charlotte-area towns Cornelius, Huntersville and Pineville.

There is no time frame for when a deal might be completed. Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said the company has been interested in buying the ownership stakes for several years, and that Duke and the municipal power agency believe it could be mutually beneficial.

Duke Energy acquired Progress Energy in 2012. Progress had served most of central and Eastern North Carolina.

Duke Energy has been making decisions about where to get more power plant capacity as it decides whether to build a new nuclear plant near Gaffney, S.C. Last week, the company decided not to buy an ownership stake in a nuclear plant under construction in South Carolina.

The potential deal with the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency would not add a significant amount of capacity to Duke Energy because the utility would still serve the same customers. But Brooks said Duke could benefit from “economies of scale” as it meets the region’s energy needs.

ElectriCities did not return a phone call for comment.