Utility and Misc

South Korea: Panel blames electric shock, poor management system for ESS fires

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) – Industry Ministry to toughen safety measures to prevent casualties, damage.

Ending a five-month-long probe into energy storage systems that caught fire, the South Korean government blamed defects in devices, poor management and systems, without holding battery manufacturers accountable for the fires.
On Tuesday, a private-public joint committee, formed in January to look into the series of fires, announced the results of the probe, saying multiple factors played a role in the 23 fires that occurred over the past year.


It highlighted four factors: a lack of battery protective systems for electrical shocks; insufficient management of the operation environment; inattention to installation; and a lack of ESS integrated control and protection systems.
For battery cells, which Samsung SDI and LG Chem produce, manufacturing defects were found but no fire occurred during verification tests in which the defects were applied. 


Asked who should be responsible for the fires, Park Jung-wook, the chief of the Industry Ministry’s product safety policy division, said during a press briefing, “Battery makers (Samsung SDI and LG chem) should take overall responsibility even though they do not make all of the components (of ESSs).”


The government will not, however, hold any individual company accountable because they did not violate any laws or rules due to the absence of related laws and rules in the nation.


“For the violation of clauses of each firm, companies themselves can address the issues in court,” he said.


The ministry will not force them to recall products because recalls only apply to consumer goods. The companies, however, are now recalling defective products from a business perspective, the ministry said.


But the companies will not get away with further fire incidents, which may cause casualties or damage.


The government has announced a number of measures to toughen safety management throughout the entire process, from manufacturing and installing to operating energy storage systems. Specialized safety standards will also be enacted in September.


The safety measures include the revision of ESS installation standards to limit the capacity to a total of 600 per kilowatt hour to prevent overloads. When the storage systems are installed outdoors, they should be installed at separate and exclusive buildings.


As for the companies, which have halted operations of the facilities at the government’s request in January, the ministry will make up for losses by giving discounts for power prices. So far, the operation of 522 ESS facilities have been suspended, around 35 percent of the total 1,490 ESS facilities in Korea. 


An energy storage system stores electric energy and utilizes it for later consumption. This fits the government’s push toward eco-friendly energy policies, as it can supply energy when solar and wind power cannot generate energy, such as at night or when there is insufficient wind.


Korean ESS producers have grown to dominate the global market with around 80 percent share in the global market. The global ESS market is expected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2018 to $5.5 billion by 2021, according to US research firm Navigant Research.

Source: Asia News Network

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