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Mother Nature Delivers For Duke Energy

Charlotte-based Duke Energy reported a strong third quarter today, with earnings up more than 30 percent compared to last year. It has business in the Carolinas to thank for much of that profit. Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers was quick to give credit where it was due this morning on a conference call with investors. Apparently the company's $680 million profit for the quarter was a gift from Mother Nature. "We experienced well above normal temperatures in all five of our regulated jurisdictions during the third quarter," said Rogers. "In the Carolinas the quarter was the hottest third quarter in nearly 50 years." Unusually hot weather means more people running their air conditioners with electricity supplied by Duke. The company's third quarter adjusted earnings were up 31 percent over the same quarter last year. Even without the heat wave, Rogers told investors Duke's earnings would have increased 7 percent because the company raised its rates in North and South Carolina. Things are looking so rosy, Duke Energy boosted its earnings projections for the rest of the year. But Rogers also made a point of mentioning the dark cloud hanging over the company's Indiana operations. Multiple state investigations are underway into Duke's hiring of a former Indiana utilities regulator, which may have violated ethics laws. Rogers said Duke is cooperating with all investigations and conducting one of its own. "This matter is a top priority for me, as well as my management team," said Rogers. The scandal has called into question a nearly $3 billion coal-fired power plant Duke is building in Indiana. Next week Rogers has been summoned before the Indiana Utilities Commission to defend Duke's plans for that plant.