Here's the latest on the proposed merger of what could be the largest electrical utility in the United States.

The proposed merger of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) and its North Carolina rival, Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), got the green light from a key state consumer group on Friday, pushing the deal forward on its path toward getting the OK from regulators.

The merged company, which would be headquartered in Charlotte, would form the biggest electric utility in the United States, with 7 million customers in six states. North Carolina's chief consumer advocate for utility matters consented not to oppose the merger in exchange for guaranteed customer savings, continued community support, and other customer protections.

Duke is shaping up to be an attractive stock, with a juicy dividend yield of 5.3%. That's higher than that of utility competitors Southern Company (4.6%) and American Electric Power (4.9%).

Duke promised to purchase Progress Energy for $13.7 billion in January. On Friday, Progress announced plans to lay off up to half of its work force at its downtown Raleigh headquarters, or between 700 and 1,000 workers, should the merger go through.

Utility mergers can be tough sells to regulating bodies, and the deal still needs the OK from the feds and the state.

An evidentiary hearing on the proposed merger is set to take place Sept. 20 in front of North Carolina's utility commission.

If none of this gives you the itch to buy, it may still be worthwhile to keep an eye on Duke Energy. Add it to your watchlist.

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