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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Duke Energy: Same faces, more possibilities, local manager says

Thursday, April 13, 2006

- Hear it now: Listen to Rick Burger's conversation with Frank Phillips by pointing your Internet browser to http://mysite.verizon.net/res0x644/thebr....

For a long time, the local electric service for many area residents was Public Service Indiana, which became PSI Energy, which became Cinergy/PSI. But there is a new name for the local utility this month: Duke Energy.

While the logo and the name have changed, the local people have not.

One case in point: Rick Burger, a company manager, who is excited about the recent merger of Duke and Cinergy/PSI and what it will mean to customers.

"In my 29 years ... this is probably the most exciting time for a merger that we've had," Burger said Tuesday. "You know, it's a new name, but it's the same commitment.

"We're driven by customer satisfaction."

Duke is the largest energy provider in the U.S., Burger said. It generates power using coal, nuclear and hydro-electric systems.

The company is exploring alternative energy sources such as wind and fuel cells.

Burger is optimistic about coal in the Wabash Valley area. Many mines set silent in Clay and nearby counties that used to provide coal to fire electric plants and heat people's homes. Then environmentalists became alarmed about the pollution cast off when high sulfur coal was burned.

But, new technology reduces emissions from high sulfur coal.

"We get a lot of our coal from the Farmersburg area and down around Princeton, Ind.," he said. "Some of that is high sulfur, some of it's not. So that lowers our transportation cost.

"I think with the technology that's coming and that's already here, you can burn this high sulfur coal and still be a good environmental friend."

Burger believes the closed Clay County mines can one day be put back in operation.

The company stretches from Indiana, east to the Atlantic coast and south and west to Texas.

"When you put both (Cinergy and Duke) portfoliostogether, we have a strong portfolio of ways to keep costs low because we can either produce electricity by nuclear, hydro or coal," Burger said.

Cinergy customers will see a small reduction in their electric bills due to an agreement to pass along $40 million to those customers when the merger was completed.

Additionally, the company has smaller "peaking stations" fired by natural gas to help boost electricity production during peak demands, such as when outside temperatures rise and many people use air conditioning. The peaking stations help prevent brownouts, which can occur when electric demand exceeds capacity.

Another benefit of being part of a large company comes in times of natural disasters, such as spring storms.

"We are still putting up 64 towers by Princeton, Ind., that are down," he said. "These are high-transmission towers, 345,000-volt lines. Here's a plus that came by being merged with Duke. We brought a hundred extra linemen from the Carolinas to just work that project.

"That's a plus because if you can bring these specialists in to work on these high voltage lines ... while you are doing your business in your local community, it helps."

During last hurricane season's devastation of the south, Burger estimates about 400 employees spent two to three weeks helping restore power to victims of Katrina and other hurricanes.

"That's a sacrifice for our people, to be away from their families."

Duke carries Cinergy's commitments to economic development, Burger said.

"We want job growth, we want our communities to grow," Burger said. "(Duke) really wants us, as employees to be very involved in the community."

As an incentive to community growth, Duke offers special rates to companies that use more electricity and hire more employees.

Electric company mergers do not affect Duke and Cinergy alone. Burger estimates that in five years, the current 100 energy companies could become 15 through mergers.

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