PUC approves resilience plan to harden electric grid

Feb 27, 2024

Hawaiian Electric received word earlier this month that the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved its application for $190 million to fund the utility’s Climate Adaptation Transmission and Distribution Resilience Program, clearing the way for the utility to receive $95 million in funds granted under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to match an equal contribution from customers.

Read Hawaiian Electric Gets The Green Light On Its $190 Million Resiliency Plan To Harden The Grid (Honolulu Civil Beat) >>

“This is a docket that Ulupono has been involved in, and we have advocated for the PUC's approval in order to leverage federal funds and make much needed grid resilience improvements,” said Michael Colón, Ulupono’s director of energy. “This docket preceded the Lahaina wildfires, and as a result, increased scrutiny was placed on the resilience plan, leading to increased engagement on grid resilience and refocusing on wildfire mitigation. The PUC has now approved the plan. Hawaiian Electric has publicly indicated that it will develop a new wildfire mitigation plan for PUC review closer to the end of 2024 and is open to a process that includes community and stakeholders going forward.”

The five-year Climate Adaptation Transmission and Distribution Resilience Program will focus on critical grid improvements that aim to strengthen the company’s resilience against escalating threats from wildfires and other severe weather events fueled by climate change.

The initial phase of the initiative involves making foundational improvements to the system, which includes replacing and strengthening 2,100 poles on critical circuits. This investment will reduce the severity of damage when major weather events occur and allow for service to be restored quickly. For the wildfire mitigation focus, HECO began the development of its Wildfire Safety Strategy in 2019 and continues to adapt it as it focuses on high-risk wildfire areas throughout the state.

Other elements of this program include hazardous tree removal, critical transmission and circuit hardening, critical pole hardening and replacement, underground portions of certain distribution circuits and control center resilience.