A Buffett Deal, Sunny-Side Up

NV Energy takeover could hasten arrival of renewable energy, benefit customers


If you can’t own the sun, at least you can get dibs on the sunniest places. That’s how Clean Energy Project Executive Director Lydia Ball sums up Warren Buffett’s desire to own NV Energy.

Forget for a moment about how ratepayers—i.e., you—would be affected by the proposed $10 billion merger of NV Energy with MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, the energy subsidiary of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, should it be approved.

If the companies aren’t deceiving us in their public interviews and statements, this deal isn’t about you—at least in the small, immediate sense. It’s about developing a segment of the economy with a lot of promise and few investors. And if they pull it off, it could be good for all Nevadans.

See, Buffett does appear to be on a mission to own the sun—or rather, the renewable energy sector. MidAmerican is heavily invested in coal, yes, but also in nonfossil-fuel sources, including some that others shy away from, such as biomass and geothermal. One of its eight subsidiaries, PacifiCorp, which delivers electricity to Nevada neighbors California and Utah, has an aggressive sustainability mission and has shown interest in grid regionalization, a strategy favored by environmentalists.

NV Energy executives won’t guarantee they’ll shut down all the state’s coal plants, despite the intent expressed in state Senate Bill 123. But with MidAmerican poised to supply an abundance of cheap capital, building all those solar plants will certainly be a lot easier for the local utility—and thus, hopefully, cheaper for ratepayers.


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