Hawaii Electric’s Insurance is Fraction of Potential Fire Claims

Nearly two months after the deadly Maui wildfires, Hawaiian Electric Co. revealed the limited scope of insurance coverage it holds in the face of potentially billions of dollars in damage claims.

Hawaiian Electric has $165 million in annual general liability insurance, according to a filing with state regulators, compared with the $4.9 billion in potential claims estimated by research firm Capstone. The utility already is the target of multiple lawsuits alleging that its power lines sparked the blaze that razed the historic town of Lahaina and killed at least 97 people.

“I’m not sure that level of coverage will provide a lot of comfort to people,” said Paul Patterson, a utility analyst for Glenrock Associates. The filing was dated Oct. 2.

A utility vehicule is parked by destroyed buildings and homes pictured in the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 11, 2023. Photographer: Paula Ramon/AFP/Getty Images

Shares of the utility’s parent, Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., fell as much as 4% on Wednesday and has shed more than two-thirds of its market capitalization since the Aug. 8 fire.

Hawaiian Electric has denied wrongdoing and the company’s chief executive officer told a US congressional hearing last week that the wildfire wasn’t the utility’s fault. While acknowledging its downed lines sparked an earlier fire, the company said firefighters claimed they extinguished that blaze. A fire flared up later in the day in the same area when the company’s power lines were de-energized and it was that fire that burned Lahaina, according to the company.

The utility disclosed its insurance coverage in response to a wide-ranging Hawaii Public Utilities Commission inquiry. Hawaiian Electric didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2024 Bloomberg.


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