The other day Berkshire Hathaway joined a number of other multinational mega corporations at the White House to jointly call for more robust action on climate change. While it is great to see companies making some effort to make changes that will help curb climate change, in reality if you look at what Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiary have offered to curb climate change, it really isn’t a lot of action at the end of the day for such a large utility. PacifiCorp (owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy) has pledged 1,000-megawatt increases in wind and solar purchases and to begin phasing out some coal plants used to generate electricity. These efforts when you look at the overall negative impact on climate of PacifiCorp are rather small in scale.
PacifiCorp and Berkshire Hathaway Energy should really consider a much more loftier goal but ultimately these companies are at the beck and call of shareholders so making large investments will reduce short term profits and that is why they are not going bigger. Another thing in addition to increasing these goals that PacifiCorp could do and should be doing across its grid is replacing transmission infrastructure with a smart grid where power can be stored when capacity exceeds demand. This in turn would reduce emissions significantly but also they could take steps like installing smart meters at all ratepayer locations (which PacifiCorp is behind on and only rolled out in a few small markets).
Between increasing their pledge and investing in a smart grid and smart meters, PacifiCorp and Berkshire Hathaway Energy could have a real effort that would earn more applauds from the Sierra Club and other groups than the watered down pledge they are making right now. The time for big and bold investments in technology and renewable energy generation is now as our future is looking bleak if we all do not make important changes today.
I guess the ultimate question is whether Warren Buffett wants to leave a legacy he can be proud of where his companies were socially responsible and helped solve big problems like climate change or a legacy where minimal efforts were made to get some media attention while not irritating investors. If Buffett really wanted to, his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, could make investments in renewable energy that would curb climate change nearly single handedly.
More information on how the U.S. can have big impact on climate change: