This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Buffett Ready for Obama Coal Cuts as Berkshire Targets Renewables

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) is well positioned for President Obama's proposal to cut carbon pollution from the nation's power plants by about 30% by 2030. It also wouldn't be surprising to see Berkshire's head Warren Buffett become one of the proposal's biggest Wall Street supporters.

Read More: Berkshire Hathaway's Next Elephant Acquisition

Berkshire Hathaway, through its utilities division MidAmerican Energy, is already the largest generator of wind energy in the United States. When a set of multi-billion dollar solar energy plants built by SunPower (SPWR) and First Solar (FSLR) that Berkshire has invested in come online, the conglomerate will also become the nation's leading generator of solar energy.

In total, Berkshire's MidAmerican energy unit has invested $15 billion in renewable energy investments. Given Buffett and lieutenant Charlie Munger's plan to invest as much as $100 billion in the utility business in the next 10 to 15 years, it is easy to see that figure rising.

President Obama's Proposal

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it would propose emission guidelines to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired utilities, creating state-specific and rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions.

Nationwide, the EPA said it expects its rule would cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 30% from emissions levels recorded in 2005. To achieve those reductions, the EPA will allow states to tailor their own solutions carbon reductions.

Nonetheless, even if the goals are met, coal and natural gas will remain the two leading sources of electricity generation in the U.S. with each power source contributing roughly 30% of the country's projected power generation.

Monday's announcement by President Obama of a carbon pollution reduction plan isn't entirely out of the blue and there is already a framework in place by which investors, legislators, voters and utilities can look upon. Some states such as California and Nevada are well on their way to their own greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

California is well into a decade-long project to have the state make up 33% of its electricity supply from solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy by 2020. Similar mandates have also been put in place in western states like Nevada.

Berkshire Goes West with MidAmerican

It is those state-backed renewable energy proposals where Berkshire Hathaway has made its biggest investments.

In acquiring the nation's largest solar plants such as Agua Caliente, Topaz and Antelope Valley, Berkshire is relying upon power purchase agreements from large west coast utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric and Edison International (EIX), whom are trying to meet renewable energy mandates.

Furthermore, Berkshire has generally invested in plants that broke ground with funding provided by President Obama's stimulus package, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and came at a time when few would invest in such projects as the government withdrew its financial support amid political rancor.

Similar deals may now emerge for Berkshire if state government's take President Obama's EPA proposal as a means to invest in renewables. In New York, Consolidated Edison (ED) recently announced it would spend about $1 billion on renewable energy investments as part of its 2014 budget.

Buffett As A Renewable Investor

If Buffett and Berkshire have quietly come to the forefront of the renewable energy industry, the 'Oracle of Omaha' hasn't appeared interested in commenting on issues such as climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Buffett has generally spoken about Berkshire's renewable energy investment from a businessman's perspective.

Investments like Agua Caliente, Topaz, Antelope Valley and a set of Nevada-based renewable investments acquired with the $5.8 billion takeover of NV Energy are described by Buffett to his shareholders as providing an attractive rate of return, and not as a matter of conscience or public policy. Analysts generally believe that is a fair assessment, especially at a time when bonds carry low yields and Berkshire needs to diversify its investments.

"We relish making such commitments as long as they promise reasonable returns. And, on that front, we put a large amount of trust in future regulation," Buffett said of renewable energy investments in Berkshire's 2013 letter to shareholders.

MidAmerican's utilities serve regulated retail customers in 11 states and the company is the industry's leader in renewables. Already, Berkshire's energy subsidiary is the top generator of wind energy in the U.S. and has renewable assets of 1,830 megawatts, according to company projections.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 17,079.57 -42.44 -0.25%
S&P 500 1,996.74 -3.38 -0.17%
NASDAQ 4,557.6950 -11.9260 -0.26%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs