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Duke Energy considers selling its commercial renewables business

Duke Energy's Pflugerville solar farm in Travis County, Texas, is now operating.
Duke Energy Sustainable Energy Solutions
Duke Energy's Pflugerville solar farm in Travis County, Texas.

Duke Energy says it's considering the sale of its commercial renewable energy business, to focus future investments on its consumer utilities. The Charlotte-based company announced a "strategic review" of the business as part of its quarterly profit report Thursday morning.

The Duke division operates solar and wind farms around the country that sell electricity to corporations, institutions and other utilities. Unlike Duke's commercial utilities, it is not regulated. The unit generates about 5% of Duke profits.

"Commercial renewables has played an important role in our business strategy for over 15 years, establishing a core competency in renewable energy development and operations that will continue to serve us well as we advance our strategy," CEO Lynn Good said in a press release. "But as we look forward to the remainder of this decade and beyond, we see significant investment opportunities in our regulated operations and believe now is the time to review the strategic fit of our commercial portfolio.”

Duke CFO Steve Young said any sale would not include the federal offshore wind lease the company won this spring off North Carolina.

"We will separate that out and not have that as part of the evaluation that we're going to go through," Young told WFAE.

A sale would leave Duke with its primary business, the regulated consumer utilities.

"The core work that we do is on the regulated side. We've got a very robust investment profile over the next decade, and it's growing. So we need to think about what's the best capital allocation plan for us, as we look across our regulated and commercial renewables profile," Young said.

"No decisions have been made at this point in time, but we believe it's an appropriate time to take a look at things," he added.

Duke reported second-quarter earnings of $1.14 per share, which beat Wall Street analysts' estimates and was up from a year ago. Young said high temperatures this spring drove strong demand for electricity. That, along with rate increases, pushed up profits in the company's regulated consumer utilities in the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

"Another solid quarter here," Young said. "We continue to see robust growth in our regulated service territories, particularly in the Carolinas and Florida. We continue to see these areas as attractive for migration. So the customer base is growing and energy sales are growing. And that bodes well. We were also helped by weather."

The company reaffirmed its expected earnings for the full year of $5.30 to $5.60 per share. Good said Duke continues to expect long-term earnings per share growth of 5% to 7%.

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.
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