PUC Disapproval of NextEra’s Hawaiian Electric Bid Opens Door for Berkshire

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has denied NextEra Energy’s bid to acquire Hawaiian Electric Company, the Honolulu-based utility that provides power to all of Hawaii. The denial of NextEra’s application opens the door for a bid by Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

In a statement the PUC said that “…the Commission concluded that while the Applicants demonstrated that NextEra is fit, willing, and able to perform the services currently offered by the HECO Companies, the Applicants failed to demonstrate that the Application is reasonable and in the public interest. In reaching this conclusion, the Commission focused on five fundamental areas of concern: (1) benefits to ratepayers; (2) risks to ratepayers; (3) Applicants’ clean energy commitments; (4) the proposed Change of Control’s effect on local governance; and (5) the proposed Change of Control’s effect on competition in local energy markets.”

The denial came just weeks after Governor David Ige, who had opposed the merger, and has openly questioned NextEra Energy’s commitment to Hawaii’s goal of 100% renewable energy, appointed a new PUC Commissioner.

Renewable Energy? Berkshire’s a Believer

Berkshire Hathaway not only believes in renewable energy, it already has one of the largest renewable energy portfolios in the world. Its subsidiary BHE Renewables encompasses BHE Solar, BHE Wind, BHE Geothermal, BHE Hydro as well as renewable project development and commercial management. BHE Renewables owns solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric projects in eight states that produce energy for both the wholesale market and for customers under long-term power agreements.

The company already has 3,877 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, including one of the world’s largest solar farms, the 579 MW Solar Star project in southern California.

Another example of Berkshire’s commitment to renewable energy is in Iowa, where it is aggressively working towards producing 100% of the state’s energy needs through wind power.

In April, Berkshire’s MidAmerican Energy Company announced plans for a $3.6 billion, 2,000 megawatt wind farm in Iowa that will feature 1,000 wind turbines.

Berkshire’s Interest in Hawaiian Electric

Berkshire already has an energy asset in Hawaii. It owns BHE Hydro’s Wailuku run-of-river 10 megawatt hydro project in Hawaii. The hydroelectric project consists of a massive 60-inch pipeline located 2,000 feet above sea level that carries water nearly three miles, transporting it from the Wailuku River diversion all the way to the powerhouse.

In addition, Berkshire recently registered MidAmerican Energy Services LLC as a new business in Hawaii.

There are still plenty of hurdles for Berkshire to overcome before it can acquire Hawaiian Electric, including local opposition that fears outside ownership will lead to higher rates, but it just got a big step closer.

© 2016 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.