Lawmakers seek Hawaiian Electric probe after blackouts

HILO, Hawai‘i — A trio of state lawmakers has called for an investigation into Hawaiian Electric after power outages Sunday on the Hawai‘i Island and O‘ahu.

O‘ahu Sens. Glenn Wakai and Jarrett Keohokalole and East Maui, Molokai and Lanai Sen. Lynn DeCoite — all Democrats — submitted a letter on Tuesday to the state Public Utilities Commission after HECO initiated rolling blackouts on the Big Island on Sunday night that impacted 21,557 customers. That same evening, more than 13,000 O‘ahu customers also lost power.

“These outages have forced four East O‘ahu schools to close,” the letter stated. “The Department of Health reported some 237,500 gallons of sewage were released into the ocean due to a lack of power at the East Honolulu Treatment Plant.

“The lack of reliability due to insufficient energy generation, HECO’s aging equipment, unreliable oil-fired power generation, and immediate and long-term solutions should be investigated,” the letter went on.

HECO’s Big Island grid has been operating with a significant energy shortfall after several vital generators have gone offline for various reasons. At the same time, the island’s largest independent power producer, Hamakua Energy, also is not producing power. The generators and Hamakua Energy together have a total energy capacity of about 120 megawatts.

HECO issued a brief statement Wednesday via spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka regarding the letter: “We understand our regulators’ concerns on behalf of customers, and we have been updating them on the situation. We’ll continue to update them on what we’re doing to reduce the likelihood of future outages as well as our efforts to proactively inform customers and continue asking for their help in conserving electricity until we get more generating units back online.”

Also on Wednesday, HECO again advised Big Island customers to conserve energy to avoid outages that evening. Because of abundant wind energy, Sunday’s outages were the first time HECO has had to initiate rolling blackouts once since March 25, when Hamakua Energy first went dark.

HECO has said a lack of power will be a problem until the end of April, when one of the offline generators will return to service after an overhaul.

HECO also has advised customers who rely on electrically powered life-support equipment to arrange for backup power systems in the event of an unexpected outage. Okinaka said via email that customers should consult with their doctor or pharmacist about how to handle such a situation and set up a contingency plan for backup generators.

Okinaka added the company has a life-support assistance program that offers billing help for customers who rely on such equipment — 537 customers are enrolled in that program.

Residents are advised to monitor HECO’s social media accounts on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) for outage updates, as well as Hawai‘i County Civil Defense’s emergency notification system on Everbridge.


Reporter Michael Brestovansky can be reached at


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.