Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI), a prominent utility firm, has announced its commitment to implement a new policy aimed at mitigating wildfire risks by de-energizing power lines when necessary. The company revealed that it is currently engaged in discussions with the government and other stakeholders to work out the details of this policy.
This development comes in the wake of increased concerns about the devastating impact of wildfires on the Hawaiian islands, particularly following the deadly wildfires that swept through Lahaina, Maui, earlier this year, driven by high winds. The aftermath of these wildfires left behind the charred remnants of houses and buildings.
In addition to the policy on de-energizing power lines, Hawaiian Electric is taking several other proactive steps to enhance wildfire prevention and response. These measures include deploying spotters in areas prone to wildfire risks and expanding inspections of utility poles and power lines. By doing so, the company aims to bolster its preparedness and response mechanisms for wildfire incidents.
Interestingly, just a few months ago, Hawaiian Electric had defended its stance on not implementing measures like de-energizing power lines during the Maui wildfires, raising questions about the effectiveness of its existing protocols in dealing with such crises.
In September, the company’s CEO, Shelee Kimura, had stated that preemptively shutting down power lines was not part of the utility’s protocol, even as Hawaiian Electric faced the challenge of high winds exceeding 60 miles per hour. She explained that their long-standing protocol relied on the closure of problematic electrical circuits rather than de-energizing them. At the time, Kimura had emphasized that the de-energization protocol was not an appropriate fit for Hawaii.
In response to growing concerns and the evolving threat of wildfires in the region, Hawaiian Electric has now adopted a more proactive approach. The company has committed to advancing its efforts to implement a $190 million grid resilience plan. This plan is designed to bolster the resilience of the electrical grid against various natural disasters, including wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis, and flooding.
The move by Hawaiian Electric Industries to prioritize wildfire risk mitigation and grid resilience reflects the growing recognition of the need for a comprehensive approach to safeguarding Hawaii’s power infrastructure and its communities. As wildfires and extreme weather events continue to pose challenges to the region, such initiatives are critical in ensuring the safety and stability of Hawaii’s energy supply.
This decision also highlights the wider global focus on bolstering the durability of infrastructure in response to climate change and the growing occurrence of severe weather occurrences. The utility sector, including Hawaiian Electric, is at the forefront of adopting innovative measures to protect their systems and communities from the devastating impacts of wildfires and other natural disasters.