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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Charlotte's Duke Energy Cuts Off Power In Low Income Homes During Heat Wave! For Shame!!!


This Morning Local Media Stations are reporting that today in Charlotte, NC there will be Cooling Stations Open in Uptown Charlotte at the Hal Marshall Building for People with NO Access to Central Air or Air Conditioners.

Who do you think is Responsible for News about Cooling Centers being Open in Charlotte? The Mayor! An Elected Official!

The Mayor's Office is Responsible for Communicating to the Public about Cooling Centers being available & Open to help provide Relief for Homeless People, Senior Citizens & Low Income People.

Its funny how whenever there is any news about the upcoming 2012 DNC Convention, that information is quickly reported by the Local Media & Local Newspapers. So why not Broadcast information about Open Cooling Centers in this region too?

I Don't Apologize for anything because I sincerely Care about regular, everyday People, NOT rubbing elbows with Politicians!

Duke Energy Company the Greedy, Electricity Monopoly for North Carolina, is cutting off Electricity for people who in Low Income Communities and for people who often use Air Conditioners, just to Conserve Energy for Wealthier Citizens who reside in Wealthy Charlotte Communities.

Unlike the Mid-Atlantic where Dangerous Electric Storms knocked out power to more than 2 Million People this weekend, North Carolina did NOT experience such Inclement Weather until Sunday evening.

I repeat.

North Carolina did NOT experience any Inclement Weather (Storms) until Sunday Evening, so why did Duke Energy cut off the Power of many Low Income & Middle Class Customers on Friday and Saturday during an Extremely Dangerous Heat Wave?

Low Income Customers who use Air Conditioners or lack Access to Central Air.
For example: Low Income Senior Citizens.


Why did Duke Energy cut off Energy to 6,000+ Customers, mostly Low Income BLACK Customers this weekend during one of the Worst Heat Waves in History?

They did it to Conserve Energy for Wealthy Customers, mainly Wealthy WHITE Customers.

That's Right!

Duke Energy Company did it to help Conserve Energy for Wealthy WHITE Customers who don't want to Pay High Utility Bills.

Its okay for Low Income & Middle Class Citizens (mainly BLACK Citizens) to pay Higher Utility Bills, but NOT North Carolina's Wealthy WHITE Citizens.

This is Nothing New about North Carolina!

Such Racist Practices have been in force the entire 20+ Years that I've lived here.

Duke Energy prefers to use Coal because its a Huge Money Maker and is Angry at the Obama Administration over its New EPA Standards recently upheld by a Federal Appeals Court.

Yes! Duke Energy Officials Will quickly smile in Pres. Obama's Face but behind his back they are Extremely Angry over the Enforcement of his EPA's Administration's Carbon Emission Reduction Standards to improve the Quality of Air.

And in case you are wondering if those Low Income Citizens pay lower Energy bills than the Wealthier citizens in North Carolina you are sadly Mistaken & WRONG!

To the Contrary it is the Low Income Citizens who are often charged Higher Energy Bills than the Wealthier Citizens in North Carolina.

Wealthier citizens can have every Appliance, Gadget & Heated Swimming Pools in their Homes while only being barely charged $100. a Month by Duke Energy, if that much.

On the other hand Low Income BLACK, North Carolina will simply own an Air Conditioner and a Washing Machine while being charged almost $200. EACH Month by Duke Energy.

Please don't tell me this is due to Wealthier Citizens living in Energy-Efficient Homes or having Energy-Efficient Appliances because its NOT!

Instead its due to North Carolina Still being a Klan-Ruled, Segregated State in the 21st Century!

The same thing happens with North Carolina's Piedmont Natural Gas Company and the Water Supply Companies.

ALL of North Carolina's Utility Companies frequently Charge Low Income & Middle Class, BLACK Citizens much Higher Utility Bills than they Charge Wealthy WHITE, North Carolina Citizens.

Excuse me but isn't that considered Discrimination?

Considering how Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas Company and Charlotte Water Dept ALL receive Annual Federal Subsidies, isn't it ILLEGAL to Practice Discrimination against some Customers based on RACE????

This is why I'm NOT Biting my tongue about what REALLY goes on in the City of Charlotte or the State of North Carolina.

Some BLACK Charlotte Residents want to PRETEND that life is GREAT for BLACK People or GREAT for Low Income Citizens when its NOT!

Charlotte & the Entire State of North Carolina is still primarily a Klan-Ruled State and a Segregated, Klan-Ruled City.

BLACK and Low Income Citizens are frequently Mistreated & Thrown Under The Bus even by BLACK Politicians because those BLACK Politicians are Afraid to Change the Current, Racially Segregated, Unfair Institutional System.

During Election time BLACK Politicians often come knocking on BLACK Voters' doors with promises of FREE Fried Chicken, than after those Voters re-elect them those Same Selfish, BLACK Politicians throw their BLACK Constituents under the Bus to Appease North Carolina's WHITE Power Structure Officials.

What a Shame!!!

I Refuse paint a Rosy picture about life in Charlotte or life in the State of North Carolina when BLACKS & Latinos are still being treated as we were in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.

Thus its imperative that people like myself who also live here, Expose to the World what's REALLY going on in this Region.

I am happy to report today that this Morning Local Media Stations are reporting that today in Charlotte, NC there will be Cooling Stations Open in Uptown Charlotte at the Hal Marshall Building for People with NO Access to Central Air or Air Conditioners.

Thank GOD!

I Thank God because I know he will protect me for doing what is Right.
NOT for doing what is Popular.

Please Keep Charlotte, NC in your daily Prayers.

Charlotte heat wave strains ailing, elderly and A/C

Tim Reilly says he knew there was trouble when he returned from work Friday evening and entered his University City townhouse.

Reilly and his wife Dana and their 108-pound bull mastiff Porter had joined the legions of Carolinas residents who lost their air conditioning at the worst possible time – on the day when Charlotte equaled its all-time heat record of 104 degrees.

Charlotte hit the 104-degree mark again Saturday, and the heat wave has air conditioning technicians scrambling to deal with calls from frantic customers who want cool air in their homes again. The situation isn’t likely to improve soon, with 101-degree high temperatures forecasted for Sunday and Monday in Charlotte.

Forecasters see only a gradual relenting of the heat over the next several days, as the powerful high pressure system responsible for setting hundreds of high temperature records across the eastern two-thirds of the nation gradually breaks down early this week. But high temperatures are still expected to be in the 90s all week – and in the upper 90s for the Independence Day holiday.

As of late Saturday afternoon, Medic had taken six people to Charlotte-area hospitals for heat-related injuries, spokeswoman Katie Rutland said. She said one person had life-threatening injuries and three others had potentially life-threatening injuries.

In northwest South Carolina, authorities in Abbeville County are awaiting autopsy results to determine if a 71-year-old man whose body was found in his trailer home near Calhoun Falls was a victim of the heat. When authorities arrived Friday afternoon, they discovered Billy Johnson dead in a home with no air conditioning and a small fan blowing.

If you’re looking for a glint of good news on the weather, and it’s just a glint, the Charlotte area will be under a heat advisory on Sunday, rather than the more severe excessive heat warning that was in place Saturday. That means a heat index of 105 degrees, rather than 110.

There will be one other difference Sunday and Monday. With the high pressure system weakening, clusters of thunderstorms that have been forming each day in the Midwest and pushing southward will be able to reach the Carolinas. That means there will be a chance of storms both Sunday and Monday nights.

All of that seemed very distant Saturday.

No escaping the swamp

Charlotte, Greenville-Spartanburg, Asheville and Raleigh were among many cities setting records for the date or the month. It was 107 degrees at 5 p.m. in Columbia, a day after it reached 108.

In the immediate Charlotte area, a number of automated thermometers recorded 105 or 106 degrees. Stacey Johnson, who lives off Rea Road in south Charlotte, said a temperature gauge there showed 111 degrees Friday. Even Boone, at 3,333 feet altitude, had a 91-degree temperature Saturday.

That was quite a test of air conditioning systems across the region. Like others without air conditioning, Tim and Dana Reilly had to make a decision Friday night – stick it out at home, or seek shelter with a friend or at a motel.

“We had offers from friends, but we didn’t want to bring our 108-pound dog with us,” Dana Reilly said. “So we stayed home.”

The got out several fans and slept on the floor, thinking the warmest air in their three-story townhouse would rise. The temperature slowly climbed to 83 degrees by the time Jeff Buhl, of All City Heat and Air Conditioning, arrived at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Reillys were the first of many service calls on Buhl’s schedule for the day.

Buhl got a “warm welcome” from the Reillys when he got out of his truck and walked to the rear entrance of the townhouse, where the air conditioning compressor was located. “I get that a lot during heat waves,” Buhl said. “I’m sort of a savior.”

This time, the fix was relatively easy. A capacitor had blown, and Buhl had the system repaired and running in 15 minutes.

“That’s fairly common,” said Buhl, who has spent about two decades in HVAC work. “A lot of times, they’ll blow from power surges.”

Within a half-hour, the temperature had dropped into the upper 70s at the Reillys’ residence. Buhl cautioned the couple that the cooling process would be a slow go, with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees again Saturday.

The most common problems with the systems are Freon leaks, blown capacitors and burned contactors, Buhl said. Occasionally, there’ll be a big problem – a motor or compressor failure.

Controlling the grid

But he saw several cases of another problem Friday.

“I had three calls from people with load boxes,” he said. Buhl said the boxes are installed by Duke Energy as a means of saving energy use during peak demand periods. Customers get lower electricity rates. In return, Duke Energy can cut off the power to high-use equipment, like air conditioning, for short periods of time, Buhl said. Typically, that is five to 10 minutes.

Buhl said some customers found their air conditioning units not working and immediately called for service.

“People get the boxes and don’t understand what they do,” he said. “There are tens of thousands of those boxes installed in the Charlotte area.”

Tim and Dana Reilly said it was the first time their air conditioning had gone out during a heat wave. “I hope it doesn’t happen again,” Dana Reilly said. “That was not pleasant.”

While the Reillys were able to cope with the lack of cooling, local officials are worried that some people – especially the elderly and those with chronic health problems – could be at serious risk without fans or air conditioning during the 100-degree weather.

Social service agencies opened cooling stations across the region, distributed financial aid so some people could pay their power bills and keep the air conditioning going and distributed fans.

In York County, sheriff’s office spokesman Trent Faris said deputies were delivering fans to those in need.

While residents without air conditioning are suffering, so are the technicians. Buhl spent two hours late Friday afternoon on the roof of an Eastway Drive restaurant, repairing a system. When he touched his knee to the roof surface, he received a burn.

“This is pretty hot stuff,” he said.

New Duke faces big tasks

As the new Duke Energy prepares to begin corporate life this week, after 18 months of regulatory filings and after-hours rulings, winning approval might start to look like the easy part.

In the years ahead, Duke’s leaders will have to mesh two corporate cultures into the nation’s largest utility and trim 1,860 jobs. They will spread $650 million in operating savings among Carolinas customers – while raising rates. They’ll decide the fate of a crippled nuclear reactor in Florida and try to settle the huge cost overruns of a new plant in Indiana.

The $32 billion merger with Progress Energy will give Duke the financial heft and political muscle that make hard problems a little easier to solve. It culminates decades of growth through mergers and acquisitions for both companies. North Carolina regulators approved the deal Friday; South Carolina’s utilities commission meets on the final piece Monday.

Wall Street is bullish on the deal, which diversifies Duke’s earnings and power sources. Duke’s stock price has surged 30 percent, and Progress’ stock 35 percent, since the merger was announced in January 2011.

For Duke’s 7.1 million customers, it’s a mixed bag. They’ll see a power company that’s leaner and, Duke hopes, more efficient. It will be able to borrow money at lower rates, saving money for customers.

But customers pay for what utilities build, and Duke is on a construction binge. After decades of little change, power bills are going up.

Old coal plants, some dating to the 1920s, will be shut down rather than upgraded to meet new environmental standards. Duke and Progress are building new natural-gas plants to take advantage of cheaper, cleaner fuel. Both want to build nuclear plants – price tags estimated in the $10 billion range – but may share new ones with other utilities.

“All of that is going to drive our prices up,” Duke CEO Jim Rogers told the Observer. “The reason you do a merger is to make you stronger financially, but also because anything that offsets a rise in price is a good thing.”

Before the merger, Duke already had invested more than $3 billion in three new power plants. It won a 7 percent North Carolina rate hike in January to pay for them, raising typical customer bills $7, and will ask for another this summer. This fall, Progress, which has nearly $2 billion in new plants to pay for, will seek its first base-rate increase since 1988.

For most Carolinas customers, the $650 million in fuel savings Duke will share with them over five to six years will come to about $1 a month.

The new Duke Energy will be the world’s second-largest private utility, the company says. If it were a nation, its generating capacity would rank 14th-largest globally, just behind South Korea. Rogers jokes that he’s ruled out applying for membership in the United Nations.

The combined political action committees of Duke and Progress would be the state’s largest, based on past spending, the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina has reported. Duke is likely to be interested in nuclear plant financing, environmental rules and carbon legislation.

Environmentalists insist that, with its new clout, Duke takes on a larger obligation to replace its coal plants with renewable energy.

“Duke has so much power that if they went in a new direction, it could change everything,” said Jim Warren, director of Duke’s most dogged merger opponent, the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network.

Duke’s to-do list

While the old Duke prided itself on its engineering savvy, power plants on the northern and southern ends of its new range show how wrong construction projects can go.

In Indiana, the Edwardsport coal-fired power plant has leading-edge technology that will produce low emissions but is more than $1 billion over budget. Duke’s former No. 2 executive and Indiana’s top utility regulator lost their jobs after chatting by email about it.

In Florida, Progress’ Crystal River nuclear plant needed large new replacement parts called steam generators. Progress punched a hole through the reactor’s thick concrete containment structure to replace the components. Now the concrete is failing.

Repairing the damage is estimated to cost up to $1.3 billion. Progress is negotiating with insurers but could end up retiring the reactor.

Crystal River loomed as Duke’s directors considered the Progress deal. The merger agreement gave Duke the option of walking away if costs rose enough to affect about 15 percent or more of the combined company’s value.

“We don’t perceive it as being that big a problem, so we don’t perceive our right to walk has been triggered,” Rogers said. “So the short answer is, this is in the ordinary course of business that this has happened, and we’ll deal with it.”

He ranks it No. 1 on the new Duke’s to-do list.

Destined for marriage?

The corporate marriage of Duke and Progress seemed inevitable to some of the people who have worked for the companies.

Both were born more than a century ago. Duke built its first hydroelectric plant on the Catawba River near Charlotte. Progress’ oldest still-operating hydro plant dammed the Pee Dee River, just 65 miles east.

Duke electrified the cotton mills that fueled Charlotte’s industrial growth. Progress became synonymous with downtown Raleigh, moving only three blocks, from Martin to Fayetteville streets, since 1908.

From its beginnings, Duke prided itself on building its own power plants and running them well. Engineers or linemen could expect to spend their careers there.

“The motto was, ‘Do it yourself and do it right,’ ” said Cathy Roche, a retired senior vice president who joined Duke in 1983. “We looked down on the companies that hired the big construction firms to build nuclear plants, with huge cost overruns.”

Duke and Progress have had separate retail territories in the Carolinas but competed for wholesale customers. They also helped each other make repairs after storms in the turbulent Southeast.

Through the decades, both grew by combining with other companies. Now they’re part of a national trend. In 1995, 98 investor-owned U.S. utilities operated. Last year there were 55.

Duke and Progress dabbled in natural gas as deregulation swept through the industry in the 1990s, but both have refocused on electricity.

Progress is considered the more conservative company.

It now owns only regulated businesses that provide service to state-designated territories, a model investors regard as less risky. Nearly one-quarter of Duke’s revenue last year came from unregulated commercial businesses, such as its western wind farms and international division in Latin America.

How merger talks began

Progress began talking about potential mergers with two unidentified utilities in 2009, according to securities filings. Duke identified Progress as a potential partner the next year.

An intermediary, Duke financial adviser JPMorgan Securities, put the companies in touch.

Both companies envisioned greater financial strength as a combination, including access to capital needed to build new nuclear plants. The Progress board would get their chief executive, Bill Johnson, as the new Duke CEO, and faster earnings growth. A move toward more regulated businesses appealed to Duke directors.

Rogers, then Duke’s CEO, called Johnson in July 2010 to ask for a meeting.

Over the following months, the companies sparred over the number of Duke shares to be swapped for each Progress share and the composition of the board. Negotiations continued until the eve of Jan. 8, 2011, when the merger agreement was signed.

Progress investors will get 2.6125 Duke shares for each of theirs and will own 37 percent of the combined stock. Duke will hold 11 of the 18 board seats and five of the top nine officers under Johnson and Rogers.

Phone calls came from other potential acquirers, to both companies, hours before Duke and Progress signed their deal.

2 cultures must become one

Now the new Duke, with more than 29,000 employees across six states, must make two cultures one.

“It’s not just about your asset and operational mix, it’s about how you do business,” Rogers said. “There’s a difference in the ‘how’ and we need to work together to find the common ‘how’ going forward.”

Some Duke workers contend the new company will be tilted toward Progress’ leadership, although executive charts roughly parallel the companies’ relative size.

“There is a general concern over why the Duke board of directors and Jim Rogers are allowing Progress to come in and run so much of the company when ultimately, we are bailing Progress Energy out,” one employee emailed the Observer last week.

Johnson, the new Duke CEO, says the utilities are more alike than not.

“They’re not so much cultural (differences) as style, maybe,” he said. “For example, Duke has a much broader business mix and they tend to think about a lot of issues, and we tend to think only about the utility business. Our scope of focus is a lot narrower, which allows us to really just focus on just one thing.

“That’s the difference between the two management teams that the Progress folks are going to have to adjust to, because all of a sudden we’re a lot broader and bigger.”

Johnson says he’ll work to soothe a workforce that’s jumpy after a long merger process that left some unsure whether they’ll have jobs.

True impact of mergers

Studies of past utility mergers show that predicted operating savings are often hard to achieve. Combined companies may not find real economies of scale if they’ve already slashed costs before merging.

“Pretty consistently, you could characterize utilities as putting forward claims that turn out to be optimistic,” said Peter Schwarz, a UNC Charlotte economics professor who studies the electricity industry. “The difficulties of operating the merged companies have typically been underestimated.”

Schwarz, who has researched electricity pricing for Duke, said the ultimate test of the merger’s impact is whether the company’s costs are lower than they would have been. If they are, he said, consumers as a whole should benefit.

Even then, he added, some customers could pay more.

Duke and Progress will operate separately in the Carolinas for a few years. Duke’s North Carolina rates are now lower than Progress’, but the rates will have to be roughly the same once the Progress name disappears.

North Carolina’s Public Staff, which advocates for retail customers, did its own studies of whether the $650 million in post-merger fuel savings the utilities projected are likely to be accurate. The staff will assess other operating savings when rate cases are filed this year.

“They’ve got every incentive in the world to achieve all the savings,” said Gisele Rankin, a Public Staff lawyer. “And if they don’t achieve them, we’ll ding them in the rate cases.”

The N.C. Utilities Commission, in approving Duke’s 2006 merger with Ohio-based Cinergy, ordered Duke to return 42 percent of its expected savings to customers.

That translated into a one-year, $117.5 million rate cut.

For decades, utilities used mergers to grow. Now they more often see combinations as a way to stay profitable amid slumping demand while building new power plants and upgrading older ones.

“The logic has changed from what mergers used to be about,” said Pattabi Seshadri, a Dallas partner with The Boston Consulting Group in Dallas. “It used to be about bigger scale, growth and access to different markets. Now it’s more defensive in preserving balance-sheet strength and building financial flexibility.”

Utilities that overpay for acquisitions, cede too much to regulators or don’t find post-merger efficiencies can fail to add value, studies show.

An analysis by the global management consulting firm found that fewer than half of the utility mergers from 1997 to 2005 met their savings goals. Total shareholder returns typically fell after mergers.

Despite that, the group says merger opportunities await. Five utility mergers were announced in 2011, including the Duke-Progress deal.

Rogers predicts Duke will be in no hurry to make more acquisitions.

“But you have to be opportunistic,” he added. “That’s one of the lessons I learned, that you have to be opportunistic in what may come your way.”

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Sources: CBS News, McClatchy Newspapers, Washington Post, WCNC, WRAL, Google Maps

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