Kiewit Energy Co. has agreed to buy a major share of California Energy Co. in a joint venture to develop geothermal energy in Utah and Nevada, California Energy announced last week.

"I think it simply marks part of the transition of California Energy Co. from an entrepreneurial company to a serious growth company at a time when the country is in sore need of additional, renewable resources," senior vice president Robert Taggart said in a telephone interview from California Energy's San Francisco headquarters.California Energy has a longstanding interest in developing geothermal energy in Oregon near Crater Lake National Park. A subsidiary, CE Exploration Co. of Portland, Ore., recently was granted a two-year suspension of its drilling leases near the park while the U.S. Department of Interior decides whether geothermal drilling could threaten Crater Lake.

Kiewit Energy is a subsidiary of Peter Kiewit Sons Inc. of Omaha, Neb., a privately held corporation with interests in construction, mining and packaging.

David L. Sokol, 34, is quitting as president of Kiewit Energy to take over as president, chief executive officer and a director of California Energy. He succeeds Harvey F. Brush, 70, who has been interim president for three weeks since the departure of Michael Heys.

Under the terms of the agreement, Kiewit Energy will buy up to 34 percent of California Energy within the next five years. Kiewit Energy agreed to pay $29 million, or $7.25 per share, for 4 million new shares of California Energy. It has an option to buy up to 6 million additional shares at an average price of $10.50 each.

The agreement must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.