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Hawaiian Electric unveils initial plan for power shutoffs to prevent fires

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Jim Kelly, Hawaiian Electric’s vice president of government and community relations and corporate communications, speaks during a news conference today at the company’s headquarters in Honolulu. Kelly laid out initial parameters for possible power shutoffs to prevent wildfires during high-risk weather conditions.
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JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

Jim Kelly, Hawaiian Electric’s vice president of government and community relations and corporate communications, speaks during a news conference today at the company’s headquarters in Honolulu. Kelly laid out initial parameters for possible power shutoffs to prevent wildfires during high-risk weather conditions.

Hawaii’s largest electric utility company laid out initial parameters today for possible future power shutoffs to prevent wildfires during high-risk weather conditions.

The so-called public safety power shutoff program slated to become active July 1 will initially cover about 48,100 customers on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii island.

Future expansion of the program is anticipated to cover more of the company’s roughly 472,000 residential and commercial customers.

As of July 1, areas included in the program where power could be shut off possibly for several hours to a few days are largely in West, Central and Upcountry Maui. In total, about 24,800 Maui customers are in areas subject to the program. About 19,300 customers on Hawaii island, 2,700 on Oahu and 1,300 on Molokai also are in affected areas.

The utility company has been working for the last several months on developing the program in the wake of the Aug. 8 wildfire disaster that killed 101 people in Lahaina and destroyed most of the town.

“Wildfires have been recognized as a top hazard facing Hawaii,” Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric chief operations officer, said in a statement. “Hawaiian Electric has responded with a multi-pronged approach to mitigating wildfire risk. One component is proactively shutting off power, which is a last line of defense to protect the community.”

Hawaiian Electric officials said they understand that such shutoffs can create hardships for affected customers, and urged customers to begin preparing for outages that ideally will come with 24 to 48 hours of advance warning but perhaps less depending on the speed of shifting weather.

Maps of the initial program coverage areas are available at 808ne.ws/psps.

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