Sokol, 51, will remain chairman. He said this morning he would focus on acquisitions by MidAmerican, which is a division of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and, before that, a spin-off from Peter Kiewit Sons' Inc. of Omaha.
"Greg's been a partner in this business for a very long time and has grown in the business," Sokol said. "I've had a long history of believing in succession planning and bringing people up along the way. Greg has been just a tremendous example of continuing to get better and taking on more responsibilities.
"It's a matter of recognizing Greg's contributions. He's ready to be CEO. . . . When somebody's ready, they should get the opportunity."
Sokol, whose office is in Omaha, said the transition does not mean he will devote less time to MidAmerican. "My 100 percent allegiance is to Berkshire and MidAmerican. I'm not going anywhere."
Sokol is one of several Berkshire executives who, according to speculation by outsiders, might be in line to be chief executive of Berkshire after Warren Buffett, current chairman and CEO of Berkshire.
Buffett, 77, has said that after he dies or can no longer run Berkshire, he expects Berkshire's directors to split his job between an investment officer, to allocate capital and a CEO to coordinate Berkshire's businesses.
Buffett has said three current Berkshire executives are qualified to serve as CEO but has not named them. He said he has four other candidates who could become Berkshire's investment manager.
Sokol said that any discussion about Berkshire's CEO would come from Buffett and that Abel's promotion is not related to Berkshire's succession plan.
Abel, 45, is to become CEO when MidAmerican's directors meet April 16 and will continue to have his office at MidAmerican's Des Moines headquarters.
In 2007 MidAmerican earned $1.8 billion, before taxes, on revenue of $12.6 billion.
Abel also is chairman and CEO of PacifiCorp, a MidAmerican electric company based in California; CEO of CE Electric UK in England; and CEO of MidAmerican Energy Co. in the Midwest.
He also is a director of Kern River Gas Transmission Co. and Northern Natural Gas Co., also owned by MidAmerican.