Duke Energy Company History Timeline


After the completion of the dam in 1904, James Buchanan "Buck" Duke, who had amassed a fortune manufacturing machine-rolled cigarettes, offered to invest in Wylie’s electricity generation venture.


In need of additional funding to further his ambitious plan for construction of a series of hydroelectric power plants, Wylie convinced James B. Duke and his partner James Blaney to invest in the Southern Power Company, founded in 1905.


By 1907 Southern Power was operating two full-fledged electric plants, one at India Hook Shoals and the other at Great Falls, both in South Carolina.


In the tradition of Rockefeller and Carnegie, Duke turned his family's modest business into a vast cartel wielding monopolistic control over the entire tobacco industry, until, like Rockefeller's, his organization was formally dissolved through antitrust action in 1911.

In 1911 Duke's tobacco trust was broken up by the United States Supreme Court (coincidentally, also the year in which Rockefeller's Standard Oil was dissolved), but the change had little impact on either Duke's fortune or the growing success of his power company.


In the midst of this expansion, Buck Duke in 1913 created a new division of Southern Power devoted to residential sales.


In 1923 W. Gill Wylie died, followed two years later by James Duke, leaving W.S. Lee as the company's leader.


Renamed Duke Power in 1924, the electricity giant became unpopular in the early years of the Great Depression, having drawn the attention of anti-business politicians.


J.A. Jones designed the first headquarters building, known as the Power Building, which was completed in 1927 at 440 South Church.


W.S. Lee's career as one of the country's top power plant engineers came to an abrupt halt in October of 1929, the crash and ensuing lean years ending all plans for future construction in the Piedmont.


In the midst of these hard times, Lee died in 1934 at the age of 63, bringing to an end the first generation of leaders at Duke Power.


The two largest of these, Dan River and Plant Lee, were in service by 1952 and together added 320,000 kilowatts to the Duke Power grid; both plants were praised as being unusually well engineered.


Even as they continued adding ever-larger steam plants, more than doubling the company's capacity during the 1950s, Duke Power engineers had become much interested in the long-term potential of nuclear energy as an alternative source of electricity. It was no doubt this tradition of engineering excellence that encouraged Duke to join with three other utilities in a 1956 venture called Carolinas-Virginia Nuclear Power Association.


Its Parr Shoals, South Carolina plant opened in 1962, the first nuclear facility in the southeastern United States and a generally successful conclusion to the years of planning required.


Before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Duke Power had an overt policy of openly discriminating on the basis of race in hiring and assigning employees at its Dan River plant.


Steam construction continued apace, including the world's largest such plant located at Lake Norman, North Carolina, but in 1967 Duke Power received a permit from the Atomic Energy Commission to build the first of its full-scale nuclear units, the Oconee Nuclear Station.


To feed its massive coal system, in 1970 Duke Power bought four coal mines in Harlan County, Kentucky, creating a new subsidiary called Eastover Mining to operate the mines.


In 1971, the company achieved notoriety as the defendant in Griggs v.


A 1973 labor dispute between mine workers and Duke Power was the subject of the documentary Harlan County, USA. The film documents the use of "gun thugs" to intimidate striking workers.


In 1974 a belated rate hike approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission buoyed the company, with sales in that year hitting $823 million and net income $103 million.


The proportion of electricity generated by nuclear energy at Duke rose rapidly, reaching 31 percent as early as 1975, and Duke Power's overall capacity approximately doubled during the same short span.


By 1977 sales again had jumped, to $1.3 billion, but Duke Power already had begun scaling back its plans for a wholesale shift to nuclear power.


In 1988, Nantahala Power & Light Co., which served southwestern North Carolina, was purchased by Duke and is now operated under the Duke Power Nantahala Area brand.


In 1989 the latter consisted of 26 units that together generated only two percent of Duke's 13-million-kilowatt capacity.

Duke Power nevertheless remained an ardent supporter of nuclear power, which in 1989 supplied 63 percent of its total kilowatts.


In 1990 construction proceeded&mdashead of schedule--on Duke's $1.1 billion Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station.

Ranked in 1990 as the country's seventh largest public utility, Duke Power appeared to be situated to prosper in any future energy environment, which was a decided advantage given the fundamental changes that would sweep through its industry during the decade.

In 1990, Duke sold its remaining transit operations.


Duke Power merged with PanEnergy in 1997 to form Duke Energy.


State Farm Insurance sold the Power Building in 2004 for $8 million to The Dilweg Cos., who anticipated significant development.


On March 16, 2006, Duke Power announced that a Cherokee County, South Carolina site had been selected for a potential new nuclear power plant.

Novare Group bought 5.13 acres (20,800 m) at 408 South Church Street for $17 million from The Dilweg Cos. in a deal announced March 27, 2006.

Duke Energy was founded on April 3, 2006 and is headquartered in Charlotte, NC.“

It has been called the Duke Energy Corporation since it merged in 2006 with the Cinergy Coporation, a Cincinnati-based electricity company.


On January 3, 2007, Duke Energy spun off its gas business to form Spectra Energy.


Duke Energy Center at 550 South Tryon Street was announced as the company's headquarters in 2009.


Each reactor is capable of producing approximately 1,117 megawatts. (See Nuclear Power 2010 Program.)


Roger’s retirement was part of an agreement to end an investigation into Duke’s Progress Energy acquisition in 2012.


The company pleaded guilty to criminal violations of the federal Clean Water Act in connection with a large coal-ash spill in 2014 and the failure to maintain equipment.


North Carolina Fines Duke Energy $25.1 MillionState officials say the fine against Duke Energy over coal ash contamination of groundwater is the largest in state history.By Jonathan M. KatzMarch 10, 2015

Batteries and Renewable Energy Set to Grow TogetherAs sun and wind become bigger parts of the electricity mix, scientists are pushing to increase the capacity of battery storage.By Henry FountainApril 20, 2015


In 2016, Duke Energy purchased Piedmont Natural Gas for $4.9 billion to become its wholly owned subsidiary.


In August 2017, Duke decided to seek permission from the North Carolina Utility Commission to cancel the project due to the bankruptcy of Westinghouse and "other market activity", although they will retain the option of restarting the project at some point in the future if circumstances change.

The company expects to spend $13 billion upgrading the North Carolina grid from 2017.


In 2018, Duke Energy decided not to include new nuclear power in its long-range plans.


As Coal Fades in the United States, Natural Gas Becomes the Climate BattlegroundUtilities are facing a choice: embrace natural gas, or shift more aggressively to renewable power? The decision will have a major climate impact.By Brad PlumerJune 26, 2019

Previously named Charlotte Metro Tower, the 40-story building will be purchased when completed for up to $675 million by Childress Klein and CGA Capital, in the largest real estate deal in the city's history, announced in December 2019.


Natural GasAs coal declines and wind and solar energy rise, some are pushing to limit the use of natural gas, but utilities say they are not ready to do so.By Ivan PennJuly 6, 2020

Dominion Energy, one of the pipeline’s two partners, also announced the sale of its gas transmission and storage assets.By Ivan PennJuly 5, 2020


Florida Crisis Highlights a Nationwide Risk From Toxic PondsThousands of open-air waste pools near power plants, mines and industrial farms can pose safety dangers from poor management and, increasingly, the effects of climate change.By Hiroko TabuchiApril 6, 2021

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Duke Energy History FAQs

How Old Is Duke Energy?

Duke Energy is 119 years old.

Who Is The Founder Of Duke Energy?

James Duke, W. Wylie, William Lee III and Benjamin Duke founded Duke Energy.

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