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Is Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Hankering for Hawaiian Electric?

July 8, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

After registering as a new business in Hawaii recently, billionaire Warren Buffett’s competitive retail energy supplier, MidAmerican Energy Services, now may pursue an interest in purchasing Hawaiian Electric (HECO), provided that state regulators do not approve NextEra Energy’s $4.3 billion acquisition of the Honolulu-based utility, Pacific Business News reported on July 1.

Representative Chris Lee (D-Kailua-Waimanalo), who chairs the Aloha State’s House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, recently told the news outlet that he has heard that Buffett is being talked about as a possible HECO suitor – but he is not so sure that would be a good thing.

“I think local residents and businesses shouldn’t be forced to pay higher electricity prices to guarantee profits to Mainland shareholders whether it’s Warren Buffett, NextEra, or HECO,” Rep. Lee commented, adding, “I think that’s why we’ve started to hear so many people begin to ask for co-ops to make our utilities locally owned by the residents they serve.”

Buffett has demonstrated an interest recently in acquiring utilities, Pacific Business News stated. In fact, he sent one of his top executives to Maui in 2014 to take part in a utilities conference.

MidAmerican Energy Services, a subsidiary of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, currently has a total of 60,000 electric ratepayers.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which owns one of the largest renewable portfolios in the United States, also owns, through its MidAmerican Renewables subsidiary, the 10-megawatt (MW) Wailuku hydroelectric project on the eastern coast of the Big Island. The power produced by the Wailuku project is purchased by Hawaii Electric Light, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric, under a long-term power purchase agreement.

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