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White House pledges $95M to shore up Hawaii electric grid after deadly wildfires

Aug 31, 2023


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The White House has announced it will allocate $95 million toward the Hawaii power grid through a 2021 infrastructure law as part of its response to the deadly Maui wildfires. However, Hawaiian Electric had been petitioning for a grant from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to modernize the island’s electrical infrastructure since soon after the bill passed.

I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore … And while we’re dealing with this latest extreme weather event, I remain laser-focused on recovering and rebuilding efforts in Maui.”

President Biden, Aug. 30, 2023.

The pledge comes two days after Hawaiian Electric released a statement acknowledging one of the first wildfires on Maui appeared to have been sparked by fallen power lines due to high winds from Hurricane Dora. The company went on to call out firefighters for saying the fire was contained before leaving the area, where a second fire broke out in the dry grass around six hours later.

The second blaze would nearly level the historic town of Lahaina and become the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history.

As of Biden’s announcement, the death toll has held at 115 with 388 people still unaccounted for over three weeks after the fire began.

Hawaiian Electric is facing several lawsuits for negligence from Lahaina residents and Maui County. In the state’s most recent energy infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, it received a C-.

Shortly after the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in late 2021, Hawaiian Electric began pursuing a bid to receive funds under a program designed to “support the modernization of the electric grid to reduce impacts due to extreme weather and natural disasters.” That request, and another pitch to the state of Hawaii for $2.5 million, had yet to be approved more than three months before the Maui wildfire.

As Maui continues searching the rubble of Lahaina for those still missing, the White House’s recent pledge will go toward positioning the island’s grid to better weather future storms.

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