Two Omaha natives are moving up at Berkshire Hathaway Energy as a result of CEO Greg Abel’s promotion to a vice chairman of parent company Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
William Fehrman, CEO of the energy division’s MidAmerican Energy, was named Thursday to succeed Abel. In turn, Adam Wright, vice president of gas delivery for MidAmerican, will succeed Fehrman.
Both have solid Nebraska connections.
Fehrman is former CEO of Nebraska Public Power District, and Wright worked for Omaha-based Northern Natural Gas Co., another Berkshire utility, and was a star running back for the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The changes follow Abel’s appointment by Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett to the corporate board of directors as vice chairman of non-insurance operations. Buffett also named Ajit Jain as vice chairman of insurance operations.
Wright has worked for Berkshire Energy companies since 1996, while still in college, and in 2003 joined Northern Natural. He transferred to MidAmerican in 2012 to lead its wind generation fleet and became vice president of gas operations in 2015.
Fehrman now heads one of Berkshire’s largest enterprises, an energy and real estate giant on track to bring in $19 billion in revenue and more than $2.5 billion in after-tax profits this year. Its power plants, pipelines, electricity networks and other assets in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are valued at $91 billion and serve 11.6 million customers.
Fehrman joined NPPD in 1981 and has a civil engineering degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree in business from Regis University in Denver.
He worked in NPPD’s coal, natural gas and nuclear generating divisions until becoming CEO of NPPD in 2003. Berkshire hired him to head a newly acquired West Coast utility, PacifiCorp in 2006.
In 2007, Fehrman said PacifiCorp might build a nuclear power plant in southwestern Idaho, but after studying the economics of the proposal, he decided it didn’t make economic sense.
The next year, Fehrman was point man in dealing with a campaign by American Indian leaders and environmentalists to remove some of PacifiCorp’s hydroelectric dams from rivers in Oregon and northern California and restore natural river flows and fish habitats there.
The group sent demonstrators to Omaha for Berkshire’s annual shareholders meeting, where they camped out under downtown freeway bridges.
Fehrman, then president of PacifiCorp, agreed with the group’s goals of returning native fish to the rivers. The dam removal process is under way.
He joined MidAmerican Energy in 2008 and served as president of its renewable energy division until being named CEO of MidAmerican when Abel was named head of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which is based in Des Moines.
As head of the utility’s wind energy operation, he oversaw a rapid expansion of its wind and solar energy generation capacity. He is active in national utility industry groups, including the American Gas Association, and is active in Iowa economic development groups.
By 2009 Fehrman was a rising executive at Berkshire, touring Omaha Public Power District’s nuclear power plant at Fort Calhoun in a group that included Buffett, Abel, Berkshire board members Walter Scott Jr. and Bill Gates, and David Sokol, then chairman of MidAmerican Energy.
The Omaha World-Herald is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.