Berkshire Gets Competitor in Race to Toughen Texas Grid

Source: By Mark Chediak, Bloomberg • Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2021

Starwood Energy, a power plant developer, is pitching an $8 billion plan to build natural gas plants for emergency use on the Texas grid, rivaling a proposal from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Starwood would construct 11 natural gas plants that could be used by the Texas grid operator when power supplies get tight, according to a proposal sent in a letter Friday to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Under the plan, Starwood would create a regulated company that would hold the assets and earn a return not to exceed 9%, according to the letter.

Berkshire’s $8.3 billion proposal, pitched in March, has received tepid support from some lawmakers who expressed concerns that it would disrupt the deregulated structure of the state’s power market. The bill is also opposed by the state’s big manufacturers and competitive power producers.

Both plans call for building new fossil fuel-fired power at a time when Texas has invested heavily in renewables and come as the state looks for ways to address flaws in its energy system exposed during the February energy crisis. The winter storm that knocked out nearly half of the state’s power generation capacity and disrupted gas deliveries resulted in billions of dollars in costs and left more than 100 dead. State lawmakers are advancing bills to reform the power market including measures that would require generators and gas facilities to winterize with taxpayer help.

The Starwood proposal’s $8 billion price tag doesn’t include the cost of natural-gas storage, according to Chief Executive Officer Himanshu Saxena. Still, Saxena argued in his letter to regulators that the cost of Starwood’s plan for Texas customers would be small.

Starwood operates and controls 6 gigawatts of natural gas in the U.S. including 550 megawatts on the Texas grid.

— With assistance by Brian Eckhouse

(Updates with background information starting in the fourth paragraph)