Over the last several weeks, Americans across the nation have been watching in solemnity as the community in Maui, Hawaii attempts to rebuild following the catastrophic wildfires which occurred there. The utility provider on the island, Hawaiian Electric, has been under intense scrutiny following the events, often being targeted as a leading contributor in the cause of the disaster. Recent information has been reported by the media that supposedly demonstrates that the corporation possessed knowledge about internal risks its power operations presented in the event of a wildfire.
In 2015, the Hawaiian state legislature in Honolulu passed a bill requiring that the state’s energy supply be 100% produced by renewable “green” energy sources by the year 2045. At the time, the legislation was the first in the nation to propose such a transition. As a result, (likely feeling pressured by the decision) the Hawaiian Electric corporation focused heavily on investing in alternative energy. In 2019, two non-renewable power plants were shuttered to make way for “greener” options. Also, in 2019, the company reviewed its power grid following the annual wildfire season in the area and learned of increased problems and risks its existing infrastructure posed. These perceived risks came primarily in the form of power lines. According to the U.K. Daily Mail, the company only invested $245,000 on wildfire safety measures, a paltry sum. It should be noted that Hawaiian Electric did spend millions over the last four years in routine grid maintenance and arboricultural (tree pruning/removal) measures.
The information comes in the wake of a lawsuit being leveled against the corporation. Witnesses from the Lahaina area reported that company trucks blocked many roadways as residents attempted to flee from the rampant fires. A resident named Cole Millington stated witnessing intense traffic caused by the trucks as the situation escalated. Regardless, the future for Hawaiian electric is uncertain at best as the community in Maui begins the process of recovery.