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Global battery storage industry to fight Australia home bans

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The world’s biggest battery manufacturing brands and clean energy lobby groups have signalled they will fight proposed new guidelines and recommendations that could effectively ban battery storage units from inside homes and garages, saying the restrictions are over the top and don’t conform to international standards.

Standards Australia is believed to be preparing the release of new standards that would effectively force most battery storage units to be put in a free-standing and fireproof enclosure, possibly adding thousands of dollars to the cost of installation and making it uneconomic.

As a precursor to that move, Queensland workplace regulators unveiled new recommendations last week that suggested no battery storage units be installed inside homes and garage or adjoining sheds, and instead be put in separate enclosures.

The restriction appears to apply to all battery storage units, and not just lithium chemistries.

Some in the industry have branded the suggestions as ridiculous.

“If you’re going to ban the installation of all battery storage in the home, you might as well ban all laptops,” says Richard Turner, the CEO of Adelaide based Zen Energy, which partners with one of the industry pioneering battery storage makers, Greensmith.

“It’s just a ridiculous position for this country to be in when we have the best renewable energy resource to harness and individuals can basically be energy independent in their own homes.”

The industry fears that even if these proposals are not formally adopted and become law, they could lead to changes in insurance premiums and so become an avoidable and de-facto requirement if they remain guidelines. This puts the multi-billion industry at risk, virtually before it has got going.

The proposal have sparked a volley of protest from battery storage manufacturers, energy experts, installers and customers, who say the proposals go way beyond international standards.

International battery storage leaders Sonnenbatterie, LG Chem and BYD say they have installed batteries in tens of thousands of homes around the world without incident. They – along with Simpliphi, Tesla and others – have vowed to fight the rules.

sonnen ads

All these companies have launched products in Australia in anticipation that it will become the first mass market for battery storage in the world, courtesy of its high electricity prices, the high penetration of solar systems, and as back-up in case of blackout.

Many of these companies use advertising campaigns showing sleek new designs incorporated inside domestic living areas or inside office buildings, like the Sonnenbatterie image above.

Julia Chen, the marketing director for China battery storage giant BYD, which launched a range of household and business products in Australia this week, said the guidelines had serious implications for the solar and battery storage industry.

She said there were no safety issues for placing the company’s lithium iron-phosphate batteries in the garage, as they only “decompose” at temperatures of more than 450°C. She suggested minimum requirements based around international standards.

LG Chem, the leader in the Australian market with about a 30 per cent share, says it has installed 30,000 battery storage units worldwide with no issues. LG Chem’s Jamie Allen predicted a major fight back from the industry.

“This would go far beyond anything else in the world,” he said. “It looks like Australia is going to overcook (the regulations) … it will end up costing the consumers more, potentially adding another $1,000 to $2,000 on system costs, just as the technology is becoming financial interesting.

“It will put up barriers, and slow the market down.”

The two main renewable energy lobby groups – the Energy Storage Council and the Clean Energy Council – have vowed to support industry.

“Requiring home energy storage units to be installed in a contained unit on the outside of a house is unnecessarily restrictive, as long as they meet strong international standards and are installed by an accredited installer to clear guidelines,” CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said in a statement.

John Grimes, the head of Energy Storage Council slammed the Queensland guidelines, which he said appear to have been produced without any industry consultation, were premature.

“This could stop all grid connected battery storage investments in the state of Queensland,” Grimes told RenewEconomy. “To have a blanket ruling that appears to rule out all battery storage, including salt water batteries, is frankly unsupportable. The minister needs to intervene at the earliest opportunity.”

Catherine Von Burg, the CEO of California-based SimpliPhi, says the reaction to battery storage units appears to be a flow-on from concern about a bad batch of Samsung phones.

But while these fires are giving lithium-based batteries a bad name, Von Burg told One Step Off The Grid last week that the thermal runaway that causes them actually has very little to do with lithium and everything to do with cobalt, the cheap – and by some reports controversially sourced – mineral that has become an essential ingredient of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

For these reasons, SimpliPhi doesn’t use cobalt, opting instead for the more stable chemistry of lithium-iron phosphate, or lithium ferro phosphate, that is also used by fellow US battery company Enphase and German’s Sonnen, among others.

“Our philosophy has always been, why take renewable energy and store it in something toxic, and then add onto that the risk of thermal runaway and fires,” Von Burg told One Step. “We’re trying to educate the consumer. Particularly considering regulatory policy issues stand to impact the industry.”

Chris Parratt, the head of Sonnen’s Australian operations, says he does not understand why Australia appears to be going in the opposite direction to the rest of the world on battery installation guidelines.

Sonnen uses Sony-made lithium iron phosphate batteries, which he says are purpose-built for use in homes.

“Ours is a very, very safe battery,” Parratt told One Step. “In Europe, we have 30,000 installations and some of those have been around since 2010, and not one fire has happened, no one has been injured. Germany has proved that they can be safe.

“There is a standard being released in Germany that allows for lithium-ion batteries to be installed in homes. So why Australia appears to be going the opposite way, I don’t know.”

Zen’s Turner adds: “The problem is we’ve got such archaic building codes here. When you talk lithium-ion, people don’t understand there are many variations, some are flammable, but many are not flammable, such as lithium-iron phosphate, which is what goes in most homes around the world.

“Yes, there needs to be some accreditation on home batteries. (But) you can’t tar all li-ion batteries with the same brush. There needs to be greater clarification of what’s suitable and what’s not. ”  

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  • john_48

    What do you expect? Battery storage for the domestic sector is a threat to both the power generators and fossil fuel industry – naturally they will fight back and with this government they have a receptive ear.

  • Dennis Kavanagh

    This whole issue smells of involvement of LNP’s and/or fossil fuel industry’s continuing attempt to confuse, add uncertainty and delay the transition to clean energy. Can anyone advise who are some of the individuals that have come up with these proposals and what connection they have with the LNP or fossil fuel industry?

    • Miles Harding

      I can hear the evil laughter in the party room from here!

  • wmh

    After they have run batteries out of town, they will start on solar panels.
    Imagine: 600V or 700V DC power station on your roof with only a thin bit of gal iron between it and your bedroom. And of course the end point of the life of a solar panel array is a DC arc and resulting fire.
    By this stage the only thing that will be allowed is the good old solar thermal heater. But then solar thermal heaters get to boiling point regularly in summer and if the OTP valve is defective then the resulting explosion would certainly take out your home and possibly the neighbours as well.
    Now you know why you should strictly avoid becoming a power generator and leave all that to the big boys at Liddell and Hazlewood.

    • Roger Brown

      Just replaced my solar hot water valve (3rd one in 24 yrs ) . When they die , they just drain the tank through the valve and down your gutters.

    • solarguy

      Max voltage allowed on a residential installation is 600voc, just so you know.

  • Alan S

    So the Sunshine State wants to make batteries more expensive does it? Eight state-territory governments and eight different sets of regulations for 24 M people really makes sense.

    • Brunel

      Arguably AUS and NZ should have 1 patent office.

  • Roger Brown

    So , Redflow Battery will be ok to install in the home/ garage ? Zinc Bromide flow battery. The liquid inside is Non- flammable and no Lithium .

    • Tinman_au

      No, the Qld rules are all batteries, even flows and lead acid…the corruption runs deep in these ones…

  • phred01

    “So why Australia appears to be going the opposite way, I don’t know.”
    Well it not rocket science. this just a road block to disable the looming electric power disruption. Does`this mean I cannot garage my electric car gotta build a special building just in case the lithium batteries explode. Probably won’t be able to drive it down the road either

  • howardpatr

    The smell of the Minerals Council about this – might well see a slick advertising campaign; like the one with the attractive young female engineer going of to Japan to find out about the LNP’ “CLEAN COAL.

    Might have young child being burnt to death by a fire caused by renewable energy technology, (batteries), next. The fossil fuel industry and its lobbyist will stoop very low as they manipulate the LNP.

  • Craig

    It surely has to be some smoke screen or amazing coincidence that PM Turnbull installed his own battery storage system just as the $hit is hitting the fan with these rediculous battery storage proposals.

  • Michael Porter

    How about looking at what the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network is doing here? They generally don’t get exposed but use proxies to do their dirty work.

    • Michael Gunter

      =rebadged #GreenhouseMafia. dunno but wouldn’t be surprised if they had a finger in the pie.

  • The smell of fossilized desperation is in the air.

  • Robin_Harrison

    Do we need any more evidence the unprincipled lying thieves in parliament are for sale to the highest bidder?

  • Radbug

    Lithium-Sulphur batteries are coming by 12/2017, and Li-S powered EV’s not long after. Given the state of the global car industry nobody will want to be left behind. Very quickly, Li-S EV’s will be the only cars available for sale, globally. To effectively prohibit home storage will see NO cars, AT ALL being sold in Australia. This country’s auto fleet will look like Cuba’s. And another thing, without a carbon price, NOW, we’ll see load shedding in 2018 etc because Li-S batteries are thirsty for electricity. So now we see Canberra getting right out of sync with global developments, right across the industrial spectrum, stationary power storage, electrical generation, cars. Turnbull and Abbott are about to be overwhelmed by the future.

  • lin

    Just wow. Am I going to need to move the forklift charger from the warehouse into the carpark and charge the forklift in the rain? Cause hydrogen is explosive etc etc.
    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Give a moron a regulatory position, and you will have a lifetime of meaningless paperwork.

    • solarguy

      Hearing you on that one.

  • Sean Sweetser

    It’s ok to have a clean coal generator in your garage though.

  • Gnällgubben

    Having a car full of gasoline is of course OK to have in your garage.

  • Tom

    The silence from our leaders so far – state and federal and all sides of the political spectrum – has been deafening. Useless pricks!

  • richard pryke

    ” Tesla set fire to a Powerpack to test its safety features – the results are impressive” https://electrek.co/2016/12/19/tesla-fire-powerpack-test-safety/

  • Coley

    Laptops have been already noted, but for this ‘guidance’ to make any sense, than all charging of any battery will have to be done at a standard distance from ones home, preferably in a concrete bunker with the leccy supplied by an ‘govt approved source’
    It’s one hell of an opportunity for cartoonists and satirists, go for it-:)
    ETA, given tobacco and big pharmas success in hobbling vaping in OZ, its mebbes not the opportunity for the ‘piss take’ I envisaged?

    • Brunel

      Big tobacco is banned from donating to the ALP and theoretically the LNP.

      (Abbott said he will not accept money from cigarette makers when he was opposition leader but he took money anyway – yep, another Abbott lie)

      Is the ban on e-cigarettes at the state level or federal level?

  • Robert Comerford

    Talk about shoot the messenger (before he has even arrived in this case), a lot of you remind me of the climate change denialists. Just because you might want it so, does not mean all battery chemistries are safe to have in bulk in your house.
    An inconvenient truth perhaps.

    You might want to take a deep breath and consider the function of Standards Australia. It is their job to set up safety recommendations for various things based on evidence. How about we wait to see the recommendations?

    • nakedChimp

      After all what’s being run down the ‘benefit of doubt’ doesn’t sit with the incumbents, sorry.
      You might want to take off the pink sunglasses.

    • Michael Gunter

      what is “safe” about having a >50% chance of killing 7.5bn people slowly and in churning chaos with runaway climate change? This is what the climate models’ EVIDENCE and movies like “The Age of Consequences” are trying to galvanise our so-called leaders to take seriously, and TO ACT: i.e. develop a credible emergency braking plan for this global-train-wreck-in-slow-motion. The movie is 8.45pm tonight at CinemaNOVA Carlton BTW. Corporates short termism will be the death of us all at this rate. #ClimateEmergencyDeclaration

      • solarguy

        Perhaps Robert has a good point let’s wait and see.

      • Robert Comerford

        If we got rid of 5 Billion of us the problem wouldn’t exist. :>)

  • vensonata .

    And can you charge your EV in the garage?

  • MaxG

    I am certain the current stealership had some input to peddle clean coal.

  • David Gittus

    What about all the powerfail battery banks that are installed in city office blocks for the Communications systems? They have been standard practice for over 50 years since the first telephone switchboards. There are thousands of them doing their job without any fuss. Usually in the computer room or in a cupboard. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6e33f1993ab52c36ceb649f0fbd83ca42ccb960873c33e57aee8bb48a24cadfa.jpg

  • Brunel

    Solarcity and lots of solar panel makers lobby Washington DC. Why not lobby the LNP to build large solar power stations in AUS?

  • Alan S

    Why doesn’t Qld just tax solar energy? After all it is the Sunshine State

  • Rod Judd

    The dirty, stinking, rotten, class oriented Liberal/ National Coalition Federal government have a lot of money invested in the fossil fuel generation of electricity and they don’t want any competition from renewable energy. Taking this approach drives us closer to the end of the world as we know it.

  • Michael Gunter

    LMAO 🙂 Standards Australia is a tool of the #GreenhouseMafia, and simply reprising how they knobbled the efficacy of solar hot water with excessive regulations about “have to heat over 60degC to kill legionella” even though there is not a single clinical case verified by independent experts of legionella crawling into a warm solar heated storage tank, against 250 kPa water pressure to breed, then dispersing in an aerosol mist during the “victim’s” ablutions, then being inhaled and killing the (totally hypothetical) “victim” through fatal pulmonary Legionnaires Disease.

    Tempering valves are OK to prevent burns in summer. All other times, a good satisfying shower can be had at 42degC, boil a kettle if you need hotter for kitchen/laundry chores. Boosting over 60deg. using fossil fuels then mixing down to 42-45deg. for showering is increasing the market share of fossil fuels, whilst turning domestic solar thermal into a partially stranded asset. No doubt this was the intent of industry’s lackeys stacking the SA Committees who drafted those fossil-friendly but biased standards for solar hot water.

    Since 1981 I have studiously ignored the stds in all my illegal DIY solar hot water installations. The best had a wetback in a slow combustion wood-fuelled cooker for fossil-free winter boosting, but admittedly it did emit some wood smoke, (to which I add: “The absence of electrostatic precipitators off-the-shelf at BBQs Galore for domestic wood heaters is a MARKET FAILURE in big cities”)

    Michael Gunter, MB,BS (MelbUni, 1976)

    • solarguy

      Good on you for putting together your DIY SHW. Did use an Evacuated tube collector? Because if you did it would at least get to 60c at the end of the day without boosting in winter, if sized correctly. A flat plate would struggle.

      • Michael Gunter

        steep angle, point due N, OK most winter days. Your “if sized correctly” sore point for me: need much greater footprint (rooftop area) for evac tube array to get same MJ rate of heat gain in bright sun. OK OK, so evac tubes can boil one cup water under cloudy skies, but can they deliver 250 litres useable water at 45degC with only 2sq.m (footprint area) of evac tube array? So we need to revisit the economics of low-tech domestic solar thermal without Standards Australia’s regulatory straightjacket of mandatory 60degC. If you’re worried about legionalla (a total furphy IMO) then just put a UV sterilizer in the hot outlet (typ 14W power consumption).

        • solarguy

          Can an ET collector heat 250 lt of water to 45C with a collector area of 2sqm.
          Oh YES it can, in fact on a good sunny winters day will exceed 60C and that is heated evenly top to bottom of the tank.
          Your little flat plate collector won’t heat the whole tank to 45c, only the top half and the bottom will be much colder.
          On Legionella it mostly lives in water like dams, lakes, ponds and roof top collected water tanks and will multiply between 20 to 45c. Not found in dry soils, moist soils close to any water source it is more prevalent and potting mixes.
          Now if you have a water storage tank and you only heat water to 45c in your SHW tank, then you run the risk of breeding Legionella. Then all you have to do is aspirate a tiny drop of water and you can get a nasty pneumonia. However CPAP machines and humidifiers are more likely to do that when the water comes from a home water tank.
          I suggest you do some research, but don’t tell people that their safe even with town water as it has been found in under chlorinated supplies from time to time.
          A UV sterilizer using only 14watts doesn’t sound right to me.

  • Miles Harding

    The real scandal here, bad thought it is, is not the fact that SA is being used as a puppet, but “who is pulling the strings?”

    The same can be said for the LNP; It has clearly been perverted by vested interests. While those interests haven’t been exposed, many (most?) of us suspect a few players that stand to benefit from the dodgy public policy the LNP is promoting.

    • Michael Gunter

      any whistleblowers care to post here anonymously from an internet cafe?

  • Les Johnston

    And there is no ban on naked flames in houses from gas burners used for heating and cooking. Gas flame temperatures are dangerous to people and houses and the products of combustion can kill. Why is an odorant used in natural gas? We really need a ban on naked flames as these burn down houses and their entire contents.

  • Joe

    It is The Fossil Fuellers, Big Coal and Big Oil at work in their last desperate throw of the dice to hold back the renewable energy revolution. Governments get massive political donations from The Fossil Fuellers so there has to be some…payback, yes.