Hawaiian Electric discussing new policy to mitigate wildfire risks

The shells of burned houses and buildings are left after wildfires in Lahaina

(Reuters) - Utility firm Hawaiian Electric Industries said on Friday it was in discussions with the government and other parties to implement a new policy to de-energize power lines as a preventive measure to mitigate wildfire risks.

The company also announced other steps including deploying spotters in risk prone locations as well as expanding inspections of poles and lines.

Just a few months earlier, the company had defended its policy to not implement steps such as de-energizing during the deadly wildfires in Maui.

In September, the company's CEO Shelee Kimura had said a pre-emptive shutdown of power lines was not part of the utility's protocol, even as Hawaiian Electric was bracing for high winds of more than 60 miles (96.56 km) per hour.

She had said that long-held protocol relied on the closure of problem electrical circuits and not de-energizing them. The utility studied pre-emptive shutdowns of power, but Kimura said such a protocol "was not an appropriate fit for Hawaii".

Hawaiian Electric added it is advancing its work on a $190 million grid resilience plan to face against wildfires, hurricanes, tsunami and flooding.

(Reporting by Sourasis Bose in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)