Hawaiian Electric Company President and CEO Shelee Kimura provided an update on the one month mark since wildfires devastated the Lahaina and Upcountry communities on Maui.
Her message is one of resilience saying, “We are here for the long haul. We will be here to support Maui and its people, no matter how long it takes.”
According to Kimura, an estimated 80% of homes and businesses had power restored in the first week, with power restoration now at 95% for those impacted.
Last week, the company responded to the lawsuit filed by the County of Maui. Today, Kimura says there are still open questions, including questions about the cause of the afternoon fire that burned through Lahaina town.
The full text of her letter is posted below:
An update from President and CEO
Sept. 8, 2023
Aloha mai kakou
A month after the devastating windstorms and wildfires on Maui, we continue work to restore and rebuild, holding tightly to each other and to the memories of the people and places that have been lost. We have witnessed grace and generosity and compassion without limit, and we have seen immeasurable grit and endurance and strength at work on the ground in Lahaina.
There is still so much to be done, but I want to take a moment to mahalo our Hawaiian Electric ohana from Maui, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and many of our partners in the community for coming together in force. Together, they restored 80% of homes and businesses on Maui in the first week. Today we are at 95%, and we have been going door-to-door in some areas to ensure power can be safely reconnected.
For generations, Hawaiian Electric employees have answered the call to serve their communities. This tragedy has demanded more of them than any event in memory. I have been humbled by their collective commitment, by the support they give to each other and by their endurance to get the job done. Thank you to the many people in our communities who have offered meals, water, notes and just a mahalo or shaka to our employees – it means so much to them and to all of us.
While we have publicly shared key facts we know about the events of Aug. 8, there are still open questions, including about the cause of the afternoon fire that burned through Lahaina.
What is clear to me is that Hawaiʻi has thrived on the collective strength and unity of our community, and we need to embrace that spirit more than ever. There are important lessons to be learned from this tragedy. We are resolved to keep our communities safe as climate issues intensify here and around the globe. We invite others to do the same with us.
Most recently, our team and partners:
- Safely restored service to the last of our Upcountry customers who had been without power.
- Continued replacement of the poles, transformers, power lines and other equipment in and around Lahaina that were damaged by the windstorms and fires, often with temporary structures which will provide safe and reliable power while long-term, community-driven plans are developed for future energy needs.
- Worked with state and county partners and posted spotters in certain areas across the state during a recent red flag warning on high winds. In parallel, we will be working to install more wireless devices to monitor and control transmission and distribution lines.
It was during this recent wind event that I joined with Major General Ken Hara, adjutant of the Hawaii Department of Defense, and Richard Bissen, mayor of Maui County, in a joint statement that emphasized our shared commitment to public safety and to working together to recover and strengthen our defenses against future weather-driven emergencies, including windstorms and wildfires.
In a related development, on Aug. 30, Hawaii received some good news with the announcement that the US Department of Energy will fund $95 million to advance our critical grid resilience actions on Maui, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. On Maui, this includes the hardening of transmission lines, undergrounding parts of certain critical circuits and much more. The federal funding will reduce the cost to customers by 50% and will allow us to execute this multi-year program of work as soon as possible.
We are here for the long haul. We will be here to support Maui and its people, no matter how long it takes.
Maui no ka oi
President and CEO, Hawaiian Electric