White House announces $95 million to upgrade Hawaii’s power grid after Maui wildfires

August 30, 2023

The Biden Administration on Wednesday announced $95 million in funding to “harden” Hawaii’s power grid to better position the state for future storms. 

The funding, coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that President Biden signed in 2021, comes after massive wildfires raged through the island of Maui, fueled by fierce winds from Hurricane Dora in the Pacific. The flames first erupted on August 8, and the town of Lahaina was hit the worst with little more than melted cars and scorched, skeletal remains of buildings left behind.

About a week later, a handful of Lahaina residents filed lawsuits in state court against Hawaiian Electric, alleging that “many of the regulatory laws that require maintenance of equipment were broken.”

Attorneys for those suing Hawaiian Electric further assert that its equipment was not strong enough to withstand the powerful winds and that the company should have known to shut down power before they arose.

The $95 million in federal funding via the Department of Energy is aimed at improving service, limiting damage during future events, and helping to prevent failures in the future that could lead to severe events.

The funding will help strengthen critical transmission lines, including two on Maui, according to the White House. It will also “harden poles supporting critical facilities such as hospitals, water facilities, emergency response, and military,” and wooden poles will be replaced with fire-resistant material.

The federal government also plans to deploy “intelligent switches” and other materials to reduce future wildfire risk. 

With 99% of Lahaina searched, the death toll from the wildfires stands at 115, though hundreds remain missing.

For info on different ways to assist in Hawaii’s recovery, log onto Maui Nui Strong here.

PHOTO: Maui Wildfire, August 8

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