Hawaiian Electric, the utility company whose power line played a role in the Hawaiian fires in Maui, was too focused on green energy development to combat climate change to prepare for the safety of its existing infrastructure.
The company said it needed to take more action to ensure that its hardware did not emit sparks after the 2019 wildfire season, which was one of the worst in Maui’s history, according to the WSJ.
However, the firm did not appear to have done much work before one of its power lines sparked the fires, which killed at least 100 people.
Instead, the firm expended significant resources toward green energy initiatives to fight climate change.
“While there was concern for wildfire risk, politically, the focus was on electricity generation,” Mina Morita, chair of the state utilities commission from 2011 to 2015, told the WSJ.
The Daily Caller reported:
Hawaiian Electric spent less than $245,000 on wildfire-specific projects on the island between 2019 and 2022 after it had determined in 2019 that it had to do more to mitigate the risks posed by errant sparks, according to the WSJ.
Despite issuing a press release in 2019 pledging to take action to reduce wildfire risk and increase preparedness, the company appears to have mentioned wildfire danger as an afterthought rather than a priority in regulatory filings with the relevant state agency, according to the WSJ.
During the same years Hawaiian Electric had pledged publicly to take more action on risk reduction, the company undertook a massive campaign to reach the state’s long-term green energy transition goals, according to the WSJ.
A 2020 audit of the company’s management systems found that its risk considerations were mostly focused on financial risks, with minimal analysis of operational risks, while the division within the firm that oversaw power line operations had significant management problems.
“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,” Doug McLeod, who served for several years as the Maui county energy commissioner, told the WSJ.
“But in retrospect, it seems clear; we weren’t as focused on these fire risks as we should have been.”
But Hawaiian Electric’s alleged failures are just one of many to blame for the fires.
While Democrats blame climate change on the Maui fires, new reports indicate the questionable state land management policies and failures of the local 911 system, fire hydrants, and emergency sirens, which contributed to the fires.
The utility company said it would cooperate fully with investigations into the fires.
Hawaiian Electric is one of the most politically influential companies in all of Hawaii.
The firm’s share price has been severely impacted after the fires after reports suggested its hardware started the fire.