May 29 (Reuters) - Amazon, Google and Microsoft have signed initial agreements to develop new power contract terms with electric utilities in the U.S. south aimed at lowering the cost of building new nuclear technologies and batteries, Duke Energy said on Wednesday.

In memorandums of understanding (MOUs) signed this month, Duke and the world's biggest technology companies proposed developing new electricity rate structures, or “tariffs,” to drive the development of carbon-free technologies, such as small modular reactors, and long-duration energy storage in North and South Carolina.

Steel manufacturer Nucor also signed the initial agreement with Duke.

The "tariffs would facilitate beneficial on-site generation at customer facilities," said Duke, which has about 8.4 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and owns some 54,800 megawatts of energy capacity.

The technology industry has been driving the rapid expansion of energy-intensive data centers, which could consume as much as 9% of U.S. electricity generation by the end of the decade, according to a recent study. Meanwhile, utilities this year have reported a jump in power demand.

Duke Energy told Reuters earlier this month that it intended develop take-or-pay tariffs, which lay out the cost of power and other contract terms to supply electricity, as well as up-front infrastructure build-out payments to guard against volatility in the data center industry.

North Carolina and South Carolina regulators need to approve the new tariffs inked between the companies.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York and Harshit Verma in Bengaluru, editing by Deepa Babington)