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Hawaiian electric was warned of system fragility before Maui wildfire

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on The New York Times or enjoy below

🗞️ Driving the news: Hawaiian Electric, aware of increasing risks related to extreme weather, had neglected to make significant enhancements to its infrastructure, failing to adopt emergency plans that could have prevented wildfires
• Attention has turned to the company’s inadequate preparations and its request to spend $190 million on strengthening power poles and equipment, a proposal still pending

🔭 The context: The company had recognized the risk of fires as early as 2019 and was observing how California utilities were handling similar threats
• Despite warnings and signs of stress in the operations, significant changes were delayed 
Hawaiian Electric's unique operational structure, with multiple grids across many islands, adding complexity to the investment in expensive grid upgrades

🌎 Why does it matter for the planet: The situation with Hawaiian Electric illustrates the urgent need for increased investments in adaptation and resilience to mitigate risks related to climate change and prevent disasters
• The failure to maintain and upgrade electric grids highlights a larger issue in the United States, where utilities have often neglected essential infrastructure

⏭️ What's next: Investigations are underway to determine the exact cause of the fire, and at least four lawsuits have been filed against Hawaiian Electric
• The pending proposal to improve the grid and ongoing scrutiny of the company's practices may lead to regulatory changes and renewed focus on infrastructure resilience both in Hawaii and across the nation

💬 One quote: “The problem with the electric utilities in the United States is they act like the protected monopolies in the face of catastrophic risk. But nature doesn’t care that they’re a protected monopoly. You need to act like a regular company facing a major risk.” - Michael Wara, Climate and Energy Policy Scholar at Stanford University)

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