- As regulators prepare to rule on NextEra Energy's proposed $4.3 billion bid for Hawaiian Electric Industries, there are signs that billionaire investor Warren Buffett could be next in line to attempt an acquisition if the deal fails.
- A decision from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is imminent, but Pacific Business News reports Berkshire Hathaway-owned MidAmerican Energy Services LLC registered to conduct business in the state, signaling interest in a possible deal.
- Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) last month tapped Thomas Gorak, chief counsel to the Hawaii PUC, to replace Commissioner Michael Champley at the agency, ahead of the highly-anticipated vote.
Even if NextEra isn't allowed to acquire Hawaiian Electric, there are signs the Aloha State's biggest utility is still an acquisition target.
Hawaii Rep. Chris Lee (D) told Pacific Business News that he has heard rumors Buffett is considering a takeover of the utility.
“Though, I’m not sure whether it’s Warren Buffett or NextEra makes any difference, but rather the for-profit utility monopoly itself that’s the issue,” he said. “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. 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.”
The Hawaii Department of Defense and a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are among the few stakeholders backing the deal. Ige has opposed the merger, as have the state's energy agency and consumer advocate.
Most of the opposition stems from concerns over NextEra's Florida subsidiary's clean energy track record and worries that the deal would raise the island's already-high electricity rates. Hawaii plans to source 100% of its power from renewables by 2045, but Florida Power & Light's track record on renewables has some doubting NexEra's commitment.
The company announced plans to buy HECO, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light, in December 2014.