Powering Strong Communities
Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

Department of Energy to Provide Hawaii with $95 Million for Grid Hardening

In the wake of wildfires on Maui, Hawaii, President Biden on Aug. 30 announced that the Department of Energy will provide $95 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to harden Hawaii’s electric grid, improve service, limit damage during future events, and help prevent failures in the future that could lead to severe events.

In early August, wildfires swept across Maui’s Lahaina community. More than one hundred residents of the community died as a result of the wildfires.

On Aug. 24, the County of Maui filed a lawsuit against Maui Electric Company, Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., Hawaiʻi Electric Light Company, Inc., and Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. for civil damages to the county’s public property and resources caused by recent Maui fires, including fires in Lahaina and in Kula.

The DOE funding will:

  • Help strengthen critical transmission lines, including two on Maui;
  • Harden poles supporting critical facilities such as hospitals, water facilities, emergency response, and military;
  • Replace wooden poles with fire-resistant material; deploy intelligent switches and materials to help reduce wildfire risk;
  • Remove hazard trees; and
  • Relocate a Maui control center to a more secure and resilient location.

This investment will help reduce the likelihood of outages, reduce restoration times following outages, reduce risk of wildfire events, and increase grid operational resilience, DOE said.

Hawaiian Electric responded to the County of Maui lawsuit on Aug. 28 through a news release in which it outlined events that occurred on Aug. 8.

The utility said that a fire at 6:30 a.m. appears to have been caused by power lines that fell in high winds. The Maui County Fire Department responded to this fire, reported it was “100% contained,” left the scene and later declared it had been “extinguished,” the utility said.

At about 3 p.m., a time when all of Hawaiian Electric’s power lines in West Maui had been de-energized for more than six hours, a second fire began in the same area. The cause of the devastating afternoon Fire has not been determined, the utility said.