No Consumer Subsidies For Berkshire Hathaway’s Greenlink

By Tyson Slocum

On June 30, 2022 two Nevada utilities owned by Berkshire Hathaway―one of the most well-capitalized and consistently-profitable conglomerates in modern corporate history―submitted a Petition for Declaratory Order seeking the Commission’s authorization to allow its Greenlink project to charge consumers three separate incentive rates. In a protest filed today with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Docket EL22-73, we argue the Commission must disallow the rate incentives as unjust and unreasonable, as the Berkshire Hathaway utilities have failed to demonstrate that “substantial challenges and risks” necessitate such incentives.

Nevada Power Co and Sierra Pacific Power Co―utilities operating as NV Energy, and owned by the financial conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway―have been ordered by the State of Nevada to build nearly 600 miles of 525 kV transmission lines, along with substations and three 345 kV transmission lines, known as Greenlink Nevada.

The Commission must dismiss the Petition, and reject Berkshire Hathaway’s request for three separate rate incentives for Greenlink. Nevada’s statutory command to Berkshire Hathaway to construct Greenlink negates need for incentive rate treatment. Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO for its Nevada utilities pledged in testimony that the company would not seek incentive rate treatment for Greenlink. And Berkshire Hathaway’s extraordinarily strong capitalization and liquidity render the corporation uniquely positioned to successfully mitigate risk for Greenlink without need to force captive customers to pay incentive rates as proposed in the Petition. Berkshire Hathaway’s proposed rate incentives would compel hundreds of thousands of captive household customers to function as the utilities’ free bank and insurance, resulting in profoundly unjust and unreasonable rates. Berkshire Hathaway will have ample opportunity to earn guaranteed profits from operating Greenlink once the project is placed in service, when consumers can then pay for such “used and useful” assets.

FERC allowed Berkshire Hathaway to acquire Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific back in 2013 because it trusted their guarantee that the Nevada utilities would be able to tap into Berkshire Hathaway’s gargantuan piggy bank to provide “increased financial stability” and “access to capital” for “new investments” in “transmission”. If the point of allowing a massive conglomerate like Berkshire Hathaway to control much smaller utilities like Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific was to allow them to tap into Warren Buffett’s pile of cash and credit, than it is not only unseemly but contrary to the public interest to now ask working families to pay new subsidies to Buffett’s empire out of their already stretched monthly utility bills.

Read the complete seven page filing here: Buffett