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AP Business Writer

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Critics are telling North Carolina regulators they should only allow Duke Energy and Progress Energy to merge and become the largest electric utility in the country if they also make revolutionary changes in how they operate.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission opened hearings Tuesday into whether to allow Charlotte-based Duke Energy and Raleigh-based Progress Energy to combine into one company with more than 7 million customers in the Carolinas, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Critics asked the commission to impose a long list of conditions on the merger. They include generating more energy from solar and wind power, more protection for the poor against future rate increases, major investment in energy conservation, faster installation of smart-grid technologies, and cutting off the connection between profits and the amount of power sold.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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