Category Archives: Berkshire Hathaway Energy

Berkshire Lines Up Support for Oncor Deal

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Berkshire Hathaway Energy has announced the support of new Texas stakeholder groups for its proposed acquisition of Oncor Electric Delivery Company.

The announcement adds to an influential list of Texas business, community and consumer groups that have endorsed Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s bid for Oncor.
TXU Energy, NRG Energy, the Texas Energy Association for Marketers (TEAM) and the Alliance for Retail Markets (ARM) have signed a growing list of regulatory commitments proposed by Berkshire Hathaway Energy and agreed to support approval of the transaction as proposed.

“Today’s announcement illustrates the growing support for Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s proposed acquisition of Oncor,” said Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman, president and CEO. “Ours is a different kind of proposal. It’s one that hasn’t been seen before, and we want Texans to know that we will be a stable, long-term partner.”

In addition to the 44 regulatory commitments previously proposed by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the company today also announced the addition of three more commitments that support the successful competitive energy market in Texas.

“Berkshire Hathaway Energy has worked tirelessly to put together a widely supported deal for Oncor customers, one that supports growing the Texas economy,” said Bob Shapard, Oncor CEO.

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.

Berkshire believes that having the support of these entities further distinguishes this transaction from those that have been previously proposed and demonstrates a growing momentum that provides the largest infrastructure company in Texas with the backing and financial resources of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

“We will continue working with the state of Texas and other interested parties to provide long-term value for Texans. Once all necessary approvals are received, we look forward to Oncor joining the Berkshire Hathaway Energy family of companies,” said Abel.

Today’s announcement brings the total number of influential Texas stakeholder groups that support Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s proposed acquisition of Oncor to eight, including: Cities Served by Oncor, Texas Industrial Energy Consumers, Office of Public Utility Counsel, and Public Utility Commission Staff.

© 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: Berkshire’s Patience Rewarded in Oncor

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With news that Berkshire Hathaway is acquiring Texas utility Oncor, Warren Buffett has once again shown that he is in the market for big acquisitions that produce solid, dependable revenue.

The all-cash consideration for reorganized EFH is $9 billion implying an equity value of approximately $11.25 billion for 100% of Oncor and is subject to closing conditions, including the receipt of required state, federal and bankruptcy court approvals. The transaction is currently expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Buffett has certainly been patient in pursuing this Texas-sized prize, and if successful, would mean he was able to acquire one of the biggest power-transmission companies in the United States.

Back in September 2014, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and several other energy companies, including NextEra Energy and Hunt Consolidated, signed confidentiality agreements for the purpose of exploring the acquisition of Oncor, which was up for auction due to the April 2014 bankruptcy of electric utility Energy Future Holdings.

Energy Future Holdings went under after being burdened with $40 billion in debt from a 2007 leveraged buyout.

Bankruptcy Drama

Over the past two years, while Oncor went through the bankruptcy process, it repeatedly looked like Berkshire was on the losing end in the pursuit of the utility. It was too bad, as it was the perfect fit for Berkshire, as it continues to build it energy company portfolio.

However, the proposed deal comes because the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) ended up rejecting NextEra Energy’s deal to buy Oncor, opening the door once again for an offer from Berkshire.

A Texas-Sized Energy Asset

Oncor is a quite a prize. The company is a regulated electric transmission and distribution service provider that serves 10 million customers across Texas. The company has the largest distribution and transmission system in Texas; with approximately 122,000 miles of lines and serving approximately 10 million Texans across the state.

Oncor is an excellent fit for Berkshire Hathaway, and we are pleased to make another long-term investment in Texas – when we invest in Texas, we invest big!” said Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. “Oncor is a great company with similar values and outstanding assets.”

Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman, president and CEO, said, “This partnership combines the strengths of two companies that share a common goal of providing exceptional customer service and a commitment to invest in critical infrastructure that will make the Texas energy grid even stronger and more reliable.”

“By joining forces with Berkshire Hathaway Energy, we will gain access to additional operational and financial resources as we continue to position Oncor to support the evolving energy needs of our state,” said Bob Shapard, CEO of Oncor. “Being part of Berkshire Hathaway Energy is a great outcome for Oncor. Oncor will remain a locally managed Texas company headquartered in Dallas, committed to the communities we serve, and our customers will continue to receive the safe and reliable service they have come to expect from our dedicated team of employees.”

Effective upon closing of the transaction, Bob Shapard will assume the role of executive chairman of the Oncor Board, and Allen Nye will assume the role of CEO of Oncor. “We are excited to begin the regulatory approval process as this transaction has significant support across our key stakeholders,” Nye said. “The stakeholders are eager to obtain a great outcome for Texas.”

“We are pleased to be working with Texas and stakeholders to ensure Oncor continues to be a strong electric transmission and distribution company. Oncor is an exceptional company with great employees and an excellent management team,” said Abel.

Energy Transmission is Great ROE

Transmission lines have been high on Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s wish list of late because they are a great way to put Berkshire’s huge insurance float to work for a high return with very low risk.

The AltaLink Example

In April 2014, BHE made a $2.9 billion purchase of Canadian company AltaLink from SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. The acquisition got the company the transmission lines for Calgary, Alberta, and gives it an 8.75-percent after-tax return on equity, with consumers picking up 100-percent of the tab for any new transmission lines.

Like AltaLink, the acquisition of Oncor will be a perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and with $935 million in operating revenues and $73 million in net income in the quarter ending March 31, Oncor will put a portion of Berkshire’s over $90 billion in cash to good use.

Growing Berkshire’s Energy Business

Berkshire Hathaway Energy currently has over $70 billion in assets, including one of the largest portfolios of renewable energy in the world.

Energy sector businesses made up 9.5 percent of Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings in 2016.

Now, it looks like Buffett’s patience has been rewarded, and Oncor will help Berkshire pass the $100 billion in energy assets mark.

© 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 to Build 140-mile, 500-kV Transmission Line

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Rocky Mountain Power, a unit of PacifiCorp, will build a new 140-mile, 500-kV transmission line running from the new Aeolus substation to the new Anticline substation; a 16-mile, 230-kV transmission line from the company’s existing Shirley Basin substation to the new Aeolus substation; rebuild four miles of 230-kV transmission line between Aeolus and the existing Freezeout substation; to rebuild 14 miles of an existing 230-kV transmission line between the Freezeout substation and the Standpipe substation.

Rocky Mountain Power, which serves nearly 1.1 million customers in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, will file request for approval of the project on June 30 with the Utah Public Service Commission.

The company’s application will include a request for approval to procure or build new Wyoming wind resources with a total capacity of 860 MW.

© 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 Provides Financing for Texas Wind Farm

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Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Wind Tax Equity will provide some of the financing for the Rattlesnake wind project in McCulloch County, Texas. Also providing financing is Citi.

The wind farm project is being built by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and Chicago-based Goldwind Americas, a subsidiary of China’s Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology.

The project will consist of 64 Goldwind 2.5MW Permanent Magnet Direct-Drive (PMDD) 109m turbines, and will be the largest U.S. wind project that Goldwind has outfitted to date.

Goldwind is aggressively building wind projects around the world, and in May announced it will begin construction of a 149 wind turbine, 530MW wind farm to be called the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm in Australia.

RES is the world’s largest independent renewable energy company with a 12 GW portfolio of wind and solar energy projects.

© 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.

Salt River Project to Join Western Energy Imbalance Market

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Another utility is joining the western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) that has been saving two Berkshire Hathaway utilities, PacifiCorp and NV Energy, millions of dollars a year.

The Salt River Project (SRP) signed an agreement for the Phoenix-based municipal utility to participate in the EIM beginning in April 2020.

“The EIM produces efficient use of resources and lower costs of energy for participating utilities,” said Steve Berberich, ISO President and CEO. “We welcome Salt River Project to the western EIM and look forward to working with the utility for a seamless entry in 2020.”

SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest provider of electricity in the greater Phoenix area. It serves more than 1 million customers and is the metropolitan area’s largest supplier of water.

It is estimated that SRP, which has been serving central Arizona since 1903, can save up to $4.5 million annually by participating in the EIM.

“The EIM can help save money for SRP and its customers by providing real-time access to the lowest cost resources across a significant portion of the Western grid,” said John Coggins, Senior Director of Power Delivery. “It will complement SRP owned generating resources and energy purchases from the wholesale market.”

The western EIM’s advanced market systems automatically find the lowest-cost energy to serve real-time consumer demands of participating utilities. This market enables utilities to buy and sell power more efficiently in the hour before the energy is needed, with five-minute plant dispatching, which result in improved efficiencies and cost savings.

Current western EIM participants, which include the two Berkshire Hathaway Energy companies, have realized savings totaling nearly $142 million since the wholesale market was launched in November 2014.

Utilities now active in the western EIM include Oregon-based PacifiCorp; NV Energy of Las Vegas, NV; Puget Sound Energy of Washington state; and Arizona Public Service of Phoenix, Ariz.

Other utilities that have formally agreed to join the EIM include Portland General Electric on October 1, 2017, Idaho Power on April 1, 2018, and Seattle City Light and Balancing Area of Northern California/Sacramento Municipal Utility District on April 1, 2019.

The western EIM serves utility consumers in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

© 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.

Data Centers Offer Growth Opportunity for NV Energy

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Berkshire Hathaway’s NV Energy is looking towards an expanding number of Nevada-based data centers to fuel its growth.

The key is so called green tariffs, where corporations negotiate that all the power will come from renewable sources.

In January 2017, NV Energy and Apple reached an agreement to build 200 megawatts of additional solar energy in Nevada by early 2019. The project will support Apple’s renewable energy needs for its Reno data center. And in May, Apple announced that it had committed $1 billion too expand its data center at the Reno Technology Park.

Reno has become a hub for giant data centers powered by renewable energy, and in addition to Apple, Google has a data center there as well.

NV Energy has filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the solar power plant.

The project will bring NV Energy’s total to more than 529 megawatts of new solar resources in construction in Nevada or under review for approval.

Why Nevada for Data Centers?

Key to data centers is reliability, and Nevada offers several important benefits weather-wise in that area. In addition to having lots of sunshine for solar power, the state doesn’t suffer from floods, hurricanes or tornados.

There already are 491 megawatts of universal solar resources in Nevada currently serving NV Energy customers. Apple will also dedicate up to 5 megawatts of power to NV Energy’s future subscription solar program for residential and commercial customers.

© 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: Did the KCC Open the Door for Berkshire to Make a Bid for Westar Energy?

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On April 19, the Kansas Corporation Commission torpedoed the planned acquisition of Westar Energy by Great Plains Energy.

Westar is the largest electric utility in Kansas and the combined companies would have served approximately 950,000 Kansas customers.

The KCC rejected the merger as bad for consumers, and noted what they called an excessive purchase price, requiring GPE to take on significant debt. They noted that the $4.9 billion acquisition premium exceeded GPE’s $4.8 billion market capitalization by $100 million.

With the merger dead, the big question is whether it opens the door for Berkshire Hathaway Energy to make another run at Westar Energy. BHE was in the running the last time around.

Westar Energy is a Natural Fit for Berkshire

With a market cap of roughly $7 billion, Westar is in the same price range as NV Energy, which Berkshire acquired in December 2013 for $5.6 billion.

In addition to just adding to Berkshire’s energy assets, the acquisition makes sense geographically. BHE has already partnered with Westar on Prairie Wind Transmission, LLC, a 108-mile, 345-kilovolt high-capacity electrical transmission line in south-central Kansas that was completed in 2014.

If BHE proves to be interested, it may face competing bids from Ameren Corporation, as well as an investor consortium that includes Borealis Infrastructure Management Inc. and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Both Ameren and the CPPIB were interested in Westar before the Great Plains merger was signed, and they may again return to the bidding.

Like BHE, Ameren’s service area in neighboring Missouri also fits well with Westar, which provides power for approximately 687,000 customers in much of east and east-central Kansas.

Unlike Great Plains Energy, BHE’s financial strength may enable it to overcome the KCC’s concerns, and add another valuable energy asset to Berkshire’s portfolio.

© 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’s 20-Year Plan Boosts Solar and Wind

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Rocky Mountain Power has unveiled a 20-year plan to provide electricity to its customers that includes adding more solar and wind and making existing wind turbines more efficient.

The $3.5 billion plan also incorporates building a segment of the Gateway West transmission line to facilitate the wind expansion.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) was filed with utility regulators and is used as a road map to help the company provide reliable electric service to customers at the lowest cost. The 2017 IRP includes the following:

• Upgrading more than 900 megawatts of existing wind plants with larger blades and newer technology to generate 20 percent more energy in a wider range of wind conditions and capture federal production tax credit value for customers

• Beginning construction on a segment of the Gateway West 500-kilovolt transmission line between Medicine Bow, Wyoming, and the Jim Bridger power plant in the southwestern part of the state. The 140-mile line would enable additional wind generation, improve efficiency and relieve transmission congestion

• Facilitating construction of up to 1,100 megawatts of new wind projects, primarily in Wyoming, by the end of 2020, capturing federal production tax credit value for customers

• Adding up to another 859 megawatts of new wind – 85 megawatts in Wyoming and 774 megawatts in Idaho – between 2028 and 2036

• Building up to 1,040 megawatts of new solar between 2028 and 2036. Approximately 77 percent of the solar is assumed to be built in Utah and 23 percent to be built in states served by Pacific Power.

• Continuing a cost-conscious transition that adds more energy diversity, the plan incorporates the company’s environmental compliance obligations for its coal plants.

“This plan provides more diversity in the energy we use, which helps us keep electricity prices low for customers and improves the economies of our states,” said Cindy A. Crane, Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO. “The proposal is also a major investment that will produce more jobs, provide a stronger tax base and build transmission lines that will deliver reliable energy more efficiently for years to come.”

By moving to complete the wind upgrades and new wind developments by 2020, the company will be able to use federal production tax credits, which will help cover the costs of the investments and provide a net savings for customers over the life of the projects.

“This ambitious plan – a nearly $3 billion investment in Wyoming – diversifies Wyoming’s economy, expands markets, presents workforce training opportunities, adds jobs and strengthens the tax base in local communities,” said Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. “I look forward to working closely with Rocky Mountain Power. I see great potential for Wyoming workers and rate payers as this plan is implemented.”

Energy efficiency continues to play a key role in the company’s long term plans. The 2017 IRP anticipates energy efficiency will meet 88 percent of the energy growth needs during the next 10 years – up from 86 percent from the 2015 forecast.

A full IRP is developed every 2 years and an update is filed during off years.

© 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: Not All Rotten Apples for Berkshire in Nevada

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There’s no doubt that the last few years have been a surprisingly rough time for Berkshire Hathaway’s NV Energy in Nevada.

One the one front, it has been in a battle with the roof-top solar industry over the hearts, minds, and wallets of retail customers.

On the other front has been the casino industry and its push for cheaper commercial power for its ubiquitous neon and blazing light bulbs.

Losing customers is not the path to grow a business, and when in October 2016 both MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts paid tens of millions to exit the NV Energy power grid, it looked like the shiny red apple of NV Energy that Berkshire acquired for $5.6 billion in cash in 2013 might have a few worms in it.

So, it’s nice to get some good news that Berkshire has signed a major customer to a new solar power agreement. And that customer is a high-profile customer, Apple.

NV Energy and Apple reached an agreement in January to build 200 megawatts of additional solar energy in Nevada by early 2019.

The projects will support Apple’s renewable energy needs for its Reno data center.

NV Energy is filing an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the solar power plant. The project will bring NV Energy’s total to more than 529 megawatts of new solar resources in construction in Nevada or under review for approval.

This is in addition to the 491 megawatts of universal solar resources in Nevada currently serving NV Energy customers. Apple will also dedicate up to 5 megawatts of power to NV Energy’s future subscription solar program for residential and commercial customers.

“We are proud to play a role in helping Apple meet their energy needs with Nevada’s abundant solar resource,” said Paul Caudill, president and CEO of NV Energy. “In partnership with our customers, we continue to develop a more balanced fuel mix in a way that benefits the local economy by providing hundreds of jobs for Nevadans, particularly those in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 357 and 396, and advances the state’s policy goals.”

“Investing in innovative clean energy sources is vital to Apple’s commitment to reaching, and maintaining, 100 percent renewable energy across all our operations,” said Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson. “Our partnership with NV Energy helps assure our customers their iMessages, FaceTime video chats and Siri inquiries are powered by clean energy, and supports efforts to offer the choice of green energy to Nevada residents and businesses.”

© 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’s Energy Unit on the Uptake with use of Predictive Analytics

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There is no doubt that these days there’s power in big data. And for Berkshire Hathaway Energy there’s literally more power that can be derived at lower cost through the use of predictive analytics.

BHE has signed a deal with recent start-up Uptake Technologies to look for early sign that its wind turbines might be failing due to damage.

Founded by entrepreneur and investor Brad Keywell, Uptake is a predictive analytics SaaS platform that delivers solutions in major industries that increase productivity, reliability, and safety. Uptake’s platform aggregates enterprise and external data and applies cross-industry data science to produce high-value, actionable insights. Uptake’s platform is powered by a continuous feedback loop, recommending impactful actions that are then optimized by human intelligence.

Keywell is also the Managing Partner of Lightbank, a venture fund investing in disruptive technology businesses.

The Uptake agreement is only the latest move as Berkshire’s commitment to wind power has rapidly grown.

In April 2016, Berkshire Hathaway Energy announced plans for a $3.6 billion, 2,000 megawatt wind farm in Iowa known as Wind XI. The plant, which will feature 1,000 wind turbines, and will be owned by MidAmerican Energy Company, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

When the wind farm is completed, MidAmerican will generate 85 percent of its energy in Iowa from wind.

“We have a dream to deliver 100 percent renewable energy to our customers,” MidAmerican CEO Bill Fehrman said during the announcement of the Iowa project.

© 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.