Category Archives: Berkshire Hathaway Energy

Special Report: Berkshire Still Sitting on 4 trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas

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In mid-November 2015, Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s Australian subsidiary, CalEnergy Resources, drilled a test well in Western Australia for what the company called a “significant gas field.”

The gas field, which is located below the Whicher Range, is estimated to contain four trillion cubic feet of gas-in-place.

CalEnergy is the sole titleholder and operator of the exploration permit EP 408 located approximately 280 kilometers south of Perth, and covers both the Whicher Range and Wonnerup gas fields.

The Long, Very Slow History of the Whicher Range Gas Fields

The gas fields were first discovered in 1968 and 1971, respectively, and are located in ancient sandstone reservoirs nearly four kilometers underground.

The big problem since its discovery has been how to get the gas and not lose your shirt doing it.

According to CalEnergy, the field is a candidate for traditional drilling methods, and hydraulic fracking is not considered a viable option.

In 2016, Peter Youngs, the Managing Director of CalEnergy Resources Group, discussed with MazorsEdge the progress on the development of the gas field, noting that “the field represents a large in place gas resource, its characteristics are challenging and there is much work still remaining to move this resource to a commercially developable status.”

As for the initial test well, Youngs said at the time, “we are encouraged by the flow rates, as seen during the test, but that the critical commercial assessment (of the flow rates) is subject to a period of substantial subsurface data integration work (which is ongoing).

Youngs also doubted that the field could be commercialized by 2017, and that has proven true.

As to when the gas field could start to produce meaningful amounts of natural gas, it still looks to be years away.

CalEnergy recently requested and received, a variation to the permit work program from the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) to undertake reservoir pressure monitoring – this involves data gauges being placed in the Whicher Range 1 (WR-1) and Whicher Range 4 (WR-4) wells.

The company is continuing with reservoir pressure monitoring, and is focused on enhancing their understanding of reservoir behavior.

In the interim, CalEnergy has launched a Care and Maintenance Environment Plan (CMEP) to maintain the current well sites and drilling pads.

Tantalizing Fruit, Just Out of Reach?

For fifty years, the gas fields of the Whicher Range have both held out the promise of enormous economic benefit, and the frustration of inaccessibility.

CalEnergy notes that in the past, “feasibility studies have failed to identify an economic technical strategy for the development of commercial gas production.”

The good news is that as a result of its tests, the company now believes that gas recovery is feasible, and it’s just a matter of when.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Rocky Mountain Power Adding Wind Power in $3.2 Billion Investment

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Rocky Mountain Power will add approximately 1,100 megawatts of new wind generation as part of its planned new 140-mile Gateway West transmission segment. Most of the new investments will be in Wyoming.

“These investments will provide significant long-term benefits to our customers and bring substantial economic benefits to rural communities where the facilities will be located,” said Cindy A. Crane, Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO.

The company first announced the wind and transmission investments in April as part of its broader long-term energy plan. Additional filings and regulatory approvals will be needed for the projects to be built and serving customers by 2020 as planned.

The Energy Vision 2020 projects were chosen by the company as the most cost-effective option to meet customers’ energy needs over the next 20 years. By moving to complete the projects by 2020, the company will be able to use federal production tax credits to provide a net cost savings to customers over the life of the projects.

In making the wind and transmission investments, the project will also create between 1,100 and 1,600 construction jobs in Wyoming, and add approximately $120 million in tax revenue from construction.
The post-construction annual tax revenues will start at approximately $11 million in 2021 and growing to $14 million annually by 2024.

Rocky Mountain Power is also planning to add solar power generation, as well.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Commentary: It’s All in the Cards Monday for Berkshire’s Oncor Bid

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Monday’s hearing before Judge Christopher Sontchi in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, could decide the fate of Berkshire Hathaway’s $9 billion bid for Oncor Electric Delivery. It’s the latest round of a high stakes poker game that has seen all the players trying to strengthen their hands.

For Berkshire, the key to whether it wins the right to acquire the utility may not just be whether Warren Buffett can prevail over Paul Singer’s Elliot Management, but also the judge’s response to a third bid offering $9.45 billion, which is said to be coming from Sempra Energy of San Diego.

Paul Singer and Elliot Management’s strong hand comes from its status as the largest owner of every class of impaired debt. The hedge fund recently purchased $60 million of leveraged buyout notes to cement that status. And, while Singer has talked of putting together a bid to top Buffett’s offer, he could just as well side with Sempra’s offer.

Another Player Comes to the Table

Sempra Energy could have a strong hand of its own, as it is a credible bidder. Sempra was created in 1998 by a merger of parent companies of two long-established, and highly respected, investor-owned utilities — Los Angeles-based Pacific Enterprises, the parent company of Southern California Gas Co., and Enova Corporation, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric by a merger of parent companies of two long-established, and highly respected, investor-owned utilities — Los Angeles-based Pacific Enterprises, the parent company of Southern California Gas Co., and Enova Corporation, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric. Today it has 16,000 employees and serves 32 million customers worldwide.

Is the Key the Support of the Stakeholders?

Berkshire’s aces come from an approach that has focused on lining up support from the stakeholders that receive power from Oncor. Five key Texas stakeholder groups have all endorsed Berkshire’s bid.

On Friday, Berkshire Hathaway Energy announced that the Staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Office of Public Utility Counsel, Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor, the Texas Industrial Energy Consumers and the IBEW Local 69 have entered into a settlement agreement with Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

The agreement resolved all issues in Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s acquisition of Oncor.

By entering into the settlement, the parties agreed that the acquisition is in the public interest, meets the statutory standards and will bring substantial benefits to Oncor and its customers. The parties to the agreement ask the Public Utility Commission of Texas to approve the acquisition consistent with the enhanced commitments in the agreement.

Will Berkshire Raise its Offer?

Both Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman and CEO, and Warren Buffett, have stated the company will stand firm on its $9 billion offer to acquire 80% of Oncor and will not be increasing its offer. Berkshire will collect a $270 termination fee if its offer is rejected.

Berkshire is hoping that in the end Judge Sontchi is persuaded by the support of 12 key stakeholder groups across Texas for Berkshire’s bid.

“The strong coalition of stakeholders consistently express the appropriate concerns and necessary protections for Oncor and its customers,” said Abel. “We stand ready to deliver on and exceed the regulatory commitments

In any case, Monday is looking like the decisive day in the fate of Oncor. Like a poker game of Texas Hold ‘Em, all the cards will be on the table.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Key Texas Regulators and Union Rule Berkshire’s Oncor Bid is in the Public Interest

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In advance of Monday’s hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, Berkshire Hathaway Energy has announced that the Staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Office of Public Utility Counsel, Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor, the Texas Industrial Energy Consumers and the IBEW Local 69 have entered into a settlement agreement with Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

The agreement resolves all issues in Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s acquisition of Oncor.

“We are excited by this unprecedented agreement with these stakeholders, as they have committed their full support to our acquisition of Oncor. This show of support is extraordinary,” said Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman, president and CEO. “Our financial strength and commitment to invest in the business will serve Oncor and its customers well and we will exceed their expectations. Our deal offers a great outcome for Texas.”

By entering into the settlement, the parties have agreed that the acquisition is in the public interest, meets the statutory standards and will bring substantial benefits to Oncor and its customers. The parties to the agreement ask the Public Utility Commission of Texas to approve the acquisition consistent with the enhanced commitments in the agreement.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Scraps Proposed California Geothermal Plant

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Plans have been scrapped for a major geothermal power plant that was expected to be built by Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

The Black Rock Geothermal Power Project was scheduled to be built on the shores of the Salton Sea in California, but BHE subsidiary CalEnergy has requested that California Energy Commission terminate the license for the project.

The much-delayed project was first approved fourteen years ago, and received extensions of the construction start deadline in 2007, 2011 and 2014.

The Black Rock plant would have generated 159-megawatts of electricity, but high-startup costs and environmental concerns have limited the development of geothermal energy.

Among the concerns are that geothermal power plants can in some situations cause earthquakes.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Refuses to Get Into a Bidding War Over Oncor

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Will Berkshire raise their $9 billion bid to acquire Oncor Electric Delivery Company if Elliot Management comes in with a higher offer? The answer is no.

Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman and CEO, and Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway stated the company will stand firm on its $9 billion offer to acquire 80% of Oncor and will not be increasing its offer.

“We appreciate the continued opportunity to collaborate with many stakeholder groups in Texas and thank them for their outstanding support, which sets our offer apart from any other bid,” Abel said. “We’re committed to being an exceptional long-term partner in Texas and our simple, straightforward deal is good for Oncor, its customers and the state.”

Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s bid for Oncor includes 47 regulatory commitments that have the support of 12 key stakeholder groups across Texas. “The strong coalition of stakeholders consistently express the appropriate concerns and necessary protections for Oncor and its customers,” said Abel. “We stand ready to deliver on and exceed the regulatory commitments.”

“Oncor is a strong company with values, management and employees that will fit well with Berkshire Hathaway,” said Buffett. “We already have a number of excellent companies operating in Texas. It is a great place to do business, and we look forward to continuing to invest in the state.”

With new stakeholders signing on to support Berkshire’s bid every day, there is good reason to think that will win its Texas-sized prize. However, if the Oncor deal falls through, Berkshire will receive a $270 million termination fee.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Stakeholders Continue to Line Up Behind Berkshire’s Oncor Bid

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Berkshire Hathaway Energy has announced that the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association and CMC Steel have agreed to support its proposed acquisition of Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC (Oncor). The growing number of commitments now includes 12 stakeholder groups, including several groups – like CMC Steel – that intervened during former proposed acquisitions of Oncor.

“As we work through the approval process, we’re encouraged that our meetings with stakeholders across Texas continue to confirm that the deal we are proposing is a good fit for Oncor’s customers and Texas,” said Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman, president and CEO. “We truly appreciate the support we’re receiving from many groups, and we’re looking forward to closing the deal and welcoming Oncor to the Berkshire Hathaway Energy family.”

Berkshire Hathaway Energy will leverage its financial strength to benefit Oncor customers and Texas. The all-cash deal includes 47 regulatory commitments and ring-fencing that ensures Oncor will continue as a strong electric transmission and distribution company.

The influential Texas stakeholder groups that support Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s proposed acquisition of Oncor include: Public Utility Commission Staff; Cities Served by Oncor; Texas Industrial Energy Consumers; Office of Public Utility Counsel; TXU Energy; NRG Energy; the Texas Energy Association for Marketers (TEAM); the Alliance for Retail Markets (ARM); IBEW Local 69; Targa Pipeline Mid-Continent WestTex LLC/Targa Midstream Services LLC; Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association; and CMC Steel. TXU Energy and NRG Energy represent two of the largest retail electric providers in Texas, with TEAM and ARM representing dozens of Texas electric market participants. ARM participating members include Champion Energy Services, LLC; Direct Energy, L.P.; NRG Retail Companies; and TXU Energy Retail Company LLC.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Commentary: Familiar Territory, Berkshire Wins if it Loses

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Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway look to be on the verge of winning Oncor Electric Delivery Co., a Texas-sized prize it has been chasing for the last three years, as the utility struggled under bankruptcy proceedings.

Now, all that stands in its way is a last minute bid by Paul Singer and his hedge fund Elliot Management. The hedge fund is the largest creditor in Oncor’s parent company, Energy Future Holdings Corporation.

Singer scored a recent success when Elliot Management won a delay in finalizing Berkshire’s takeover while it puts together its own offer, reportedly a $9.3 billion bid that would top Berkshire’s $9 billion deal.

The delay moves the bankruptcy court date from August 10 to August 21.

In addition to winning approval from the bankruptcy judge, any deal put together by Berkshire Hathaway or Elliott Management has to pass muster with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), the agency that regulates the state’s electric and telecommunication utilities, and must rule that any approved acquisition is in the public interest.

The PUC has already rejected two prior takeover bids for Oncor, including last year’s bid from Hunt Consolidated Inc., and April’s bid from NextEra Energy Inc. The failed deals opened the door for Berkshire’s bid.

Berkshire, which entered the energy business in 1999, has built one of the largest utility holding companies, with $85 billion in assets and $17.4 billion in annual operation revenue, as of 2016.

Unlike many failed attempts at merging utilities, Berkshire has repeatedly acquired plum assets, including MidAmerican Energy, PacifiCorp, and NV Energy, and by allowing them to retain their earnings, made them stronger than they were before acquisition.

This is not something that escapes the PUC as it considers who should supply power to 10 million Texas residents, and a host of major manufacturers that need electricity at the lowest possible rates.

As Tony Bennett, president of the Association of Texas Manufacturers, pointed out in a recent editorial, Texas companies in the Oncor service area don’t have a choice of electricity suppliers, so whoever wins the bid has to be focussed on reliable service and low rates, not just the highest return for investors. This is where Berkshire Hathaway Energy excels.

Still, like so many deals that Buffett strikes, he wins even if he loses.

What’s a Hundred or Two Million Between Friends?

Termination fees are familiar territory for Buffett, who walked away with $175 million in 2008 when he refused to get in a bidding war for Constellation Energy. French energy company EDF doubled his offer, but a pile of cash that ran into the hundred millions suited him just fine for his three month pursuit of the Baltimore-based energy wholesaler.

This time, if the Oncor deal falls through, Berkshire will receive a $270 million termination fee.

Not a bad way to lose at all.

But, I wouldn’t bet on Berkshire losing this one.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Oncor Plan Would Slash Rates for 54,000 Customers

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Oncor Energy, which Berkshire Hathaway is hoping to acquire through its subsidiary Berkshire Hathaway Energy, has announced that it reached a proposed settlement in its rate case, which was filed earlier this year.

The rate case settlement also garnered wide support within the industry and among consumer groups.

Some 54,000 customers scattered across North, West and West Central Texas were suffering under sky-high electric rates from Sharyland Utilities, which has the highest power delivery rates in Texas.

Consumers waged a campaign to bring down those rates, which were hitting farmers and other large energy users particularly hard.

If approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, consumers could expect a 40 percent drop in electricity costs. The settlement would have Sharyland customers become Oncor customers.

In a statement, Berkshire Hathaway Energy commends Oncor’s efforts to achieve a balanced outcome for customers that helps keep rates among the lowest in Texas and preserves the company’s ability to invest in its system at reasonable cost.

“Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s ownership structure is a source of financial strength that uniquely positions us to provide the resources Oncor needs to fund the new equity requirement,” said Abel.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Utilities Save Millions in Q2 Thanks to EIM

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A number of Berkshire Hathaway’s utilities, including PacifiCorp and NV Energy, has saved millions million so far this year through the western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM).

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) reported that the western Energy Imbalance Market produced benefits of $39.52 million in the second quarter of 2017. The benefits since the western regional market was launched in 2014 now total $213.24 million.

In 2014, Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s PacifiCorp agreed to become the first participant in a new Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) as a way to balance electricity in-flows and out-flows on a regional basis and bring millions of dollars in benefits to participating utilities.

During the most recent three-month period, PacifiCorp saw benefits of $8.81 million, and NV Energy total benefits in April and May were $4.62 million, while June benefits are still pending data verification.

The EIM began financially-binding operation on November 1, 2014, by optimizing resources across the ISO and PacifiCorp’s balancing authority areas (BAAs), which includes California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

The EIM improves the integration of renewable resources and increases reliability by sharing information between balancing authorities on electricity delivery conditions across the entire EIM region.

Portland General Electric plans to enter the EIM in October 2017, followed by Idaho Power and Canada’s Powerex in April 2018. The Balancing Authority of Northern California/Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will begin participating in April 2019. Salt River Project of Phoenix is slated to enter the market in April 2020.

The EIM’s state-of-art technology automatically optimizes the real-time grid to find low cost energy regardless of its location to serve consumers in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.

Excess renewable energy in one area can be used to serve demand in another seamlessly and effectively, avoiding turning off clean energy resources when not enough local demand exists to use it. Another benefit comes from reducing the amount of energy flexibility reserves utilities must carry to manage load and supply variability, as they can tap into resources outside of their service area to serve their load at less cost.

During Q2 2017, the western EIM helped improve use of renewable resources that is estimated to have reduced carbon emissions by 28,700 metric tons. These emission reductions were made possible by using 67,055 megawatt-hours of excess renewable energy that otherwise would have been turned off.

“The EIM had another strong quarter,” said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich. “The western real-time market is a proven platform for utilities to find and use low-cost energy that produces substantial cost savings — and it will only get better with seven more utilities preparing to join the market by 2020.”

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.