Critics of coal, nuclear attend Duke Energy shareholders meeting

Dueling protesters greeted Duke Energy shareholders Thursday at an annual meeting dominated by critics of the utility's coal, nuclear and renewable energy policies.

Duke is coming off strong 2010 earnings, and this week reported first-quarter gains that moved its stock to the highest price in three years. But it also faces potential setbacks in new power plant construction from Indiana, on the northern end of its five-state territory, to its home base in the Carolinas.

In Indiana, Duke faces mounting costs to finish building its Edwardsport coal-fired plant and investigations into allegations of undue influence over regulators. The ethics scandal has cost the jobs of three Duke officials, including that of a top Charlotte-based executive, Jim Turner.

In the Carolinas, Duke said this week that the nuclear crisis in Japan has derailed N.C. legislation this year to streamline recovery of costs of building new plants. Critics say the measure would shift risks of building the $11 billion nuclear plant Duke plans in Cherokee County, S.C., from shareholders to consumers.

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