Monday, May 20, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Thursday, August 17, 2023
State Energy Officials: Hawaiian Electric Prioritized Green-Energy Push over Wildfire Prevention
By Selected News Articles @ 2:01 PM :: 4018 Views :: Maui County, Energy, Environment

Hawaiian Electric Prioritized State-Mandated Green-Energy Push over Wildfire Prevention, Ex-Energy Officials Claim

by Ari Blaff, National Review, August 17, 2023

As calls mount to investigate Hawaiian Electric in the wake of the state’s worst wildfire ever, reports have emerged showing that the company was aware of vulnerabilities within its system that could contribute to such a natural disaster but instead prioritized developing renewable energy in accordance with state law.

In 2015, state legislators passed a first-in-the-nation bill mandating that Hawaii’s energy supply derive entirely from renewable sources by 2045. Seeking to maintain compliance with this new push, the firm struggled to compensate with renewable energy after it retired two conventional power plants in 2019.

“You have to look at the scope and scale of the transformation within [Hawaiian Electric] that was occurring throughout the system,” Mina Morita, chairwoman of the state’s utilities commission a decade ago, told the Journal. “While there was concern for wildfire risk, politically the focus was on electricity generation.”

Doug McLeod, a consultant who previously worked with Maui’s energy commissioner, echoed the concern. “Looking back with hindsight, the business opportunities were on the generation side, and the utility was going out for bid with all these big renewable-energy projects,” the analyst told the Journal. “But in retrospect, it seems clear, we weren’t as focused on these fire risks as we should have been.”

The firm’s fixation on environmentally friendly projects seemingly distracted the utility company from well-known problems within its energy grid. Following the 2019 wildfire season in Maui, which claimed the lives of 89 residents, the utility company conducted a review and was alerted to shortcomings within its energy grid, particularly its power lines emitting sparks.

In the intervening years, Hawaiian Electronic consequently invested less than a quarter-of-a-million dollars on wildfire-related projects, regulatory filings obtained by the Wall Street Journal show.

“We’ve been hammering this home, and it’s just really frustrating and heartbreaking to see that some things could have been done, but we couldn’t find money,” Elizabeth Pickett, a researcher who helped draft a wildfire protection plan for the island in 2014, told the Journal. “We are living through what happens when there’s a lag and everyone’s still catching up.”

The recommendations Pickett’s team presented at the time included vegetation thinning in densely populated areas, public education campaigns, and deeper collaboration with local utility companies.

The source of August’s deadly fire, which has claimed the lives of over one hundred islanders and is the nation’s worst in over a century, remains unknown. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that faulty utility equipment may have played a crucial role. One video circulating online shows a downed power line igniting grass near Lahanaia, the epicenter of the conflagration.

“We all believe it’s important to understand what happened. And I think we all believe it’s important to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Shelee Kimura, the chief executive of Hawaiian Electric, told the Journal.

Following the wildfire, Hawaiian Electric’s balance sheet has been sent into a tailspin as its stock shed nearly half its value this week, while Standard & Poors (S&P) downgraded its credit rating to junk level.


WSJ: Hawaiian Electric Knew of Wildfire Threat, but Waited Years to Act -- Four years ago, the utility said it needed to do more to prevent its power lines from emitting sparks. It made little progress, focusing on a shift to clean energy.


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together


Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii