Hawaiian Electric’s insurance covers very few Maui fire claims

New details have emerged about the true capability for Hawaiian Electric to compensate victims and families after deadly wildfires ravaged parts of the island of Maui two months ago. 

According to reports, Hawaiian Electric has a yearly general liability insurance policy that covers about $165 million, per details found in documents from state regulators in Hawaii. The research firm Capstone estimates that potential claims for damage and loss caused by the wildfires could reach as high as $4.9 billion.

The electric provider has admitted fault saying its equipment caused a fire on Aug. 8 before it was able to stop the flow of electricity to its aboveground power lines. 

The utility said it was not responsible, however, for the fire that was started later that same day which caused devastation to the area known as Lahaina. 

Mike Kelly, a California wildfire attorney who headed up a committee dedicated to looking at payouts to wildfire victims, said Hawaiian Electric should have put more thought into how much risk it faced before electing the insurance it had. 

“Someone was not doing their job when thinking: ‘Have we done everything we could have done to protect our business, stockholders, and customers, and what it costs to cover that?'” said Kelly.

The utility’s own 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Plan identified wildfire as a significant danger for West Maui, where Lahaina is situated.