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September 21, 2021

Lithium-ion battery storage may be banned in Australian homes

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Having a Tesla Powerwall or other lithium ion storage battery inside your home could soon be illegal. Photo RenewEconomy
Having a Tesla Powerwall or other lithium-ion storage battery inside your home could soon be illegal. Photo RenewEconomy

Giles Parkinson, RenewEconomy

Lithium-ion battery storage devices – including Tesla Powerwalls and other products – may be banned from being installed inside homes and garages in Australia under new guidelines being drafted by Standards Australia.

The move, if upheld, is likely to send shockwaves through the industry, with thousands of Australian households, including prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, already installing lithium ion battery storage devices and millions more predicted to do so in coming years.

Standards Australia, a voluntary body that draws on expertise from the industries involved and key stakeholders, is expected to release the draft guidelines in the next week or so. But news of its proposals has already leaked, causing concern that the decision could bring the industry to a halt.

It is feared that the ruling, if upheld, could cause damage to the lithium ion storage market – expected to be worth billions of dollars and expected to play a critical role in the evolution of Australia’s energy market.

Most of the 1.6 million Australian households with rooftop solar already installed say they intend to install battery storage.

It is believed Standard Australia will advise lithium ion battery storage should only be installed in free standing ‘kiosks’ – or effectively a ‘bunker’ as one source described it – which would likely add thousands of dollars to the cost of installation.

This will affect not just individual installations, including those looking to go off grid, but also ‘mass’ deployment such as AGL Energy’s ‘virtual power plant’ in South Australia, which it plans to replicate ‘across the grid’, as well as numerous trials being conducted by networks across Australia, and various ‘power sharing’ proposals across the country.

It also raises questions about whether people with electric vehicles, powered by lithium-ion storage, would also be banned from households garages.

Extraordinarily, there are currently no standards for lithium ion battery storage in Australia, as we reported back in March last year, but deliberations began in June, as we reported here. However, both the Clean Energy Council, and the Energy Storage Council have issued their own guidelines, which do not include a ban.

The proposal is being seen as going from one extreme to another, and well beyond where are other jurisdiction such as Germany or California, the other big household battery storage markets, have gone.

Australia is considered to be the world’s test market for battery storage, thanks to its extraordinary high grid costs, mostly due to the pricing of the network, and its high penetration of rooftop solar.

Forecasts for battery storage uptake include 2 million within a few years (Morgan Stanley), to 6 million by 2030 (Bloomberg New Energy Finance and CSIRO/ENA predicted that battery storage capacity would outstrip rooftop solar by 2025. Industry analyst Sunwiz says 70 per cent of solar households are looking to install battery storage of some sort.

Two of the biggest players in the market – Tesla and LG Chem – both use lithium-ion, as do numerous other products such as Sonnenbatterie, Sony, Enphase, GCL, BYD, Panasonic and Samsung.

Other products, such as Australia’s Redflow zinc bromine flow batterie, Australia’s Ecoult (advanced lead battery) and the US-based Aquion (water) do not use lithium ion.

Standards Australia is believed to have taken a conservative view of lithium ion based on recommendations from fire authorities, who took the path of least risk. This follows the ban of some lithium-ion phone devices on aircraft, such as Samsung.

But others say that lithium-ion battery storage devices have long been installed in homes, particularly Germany. This proposal goes further than those put out by International Electrotechnical Commission  and UL – formerly known as Underwriters Lab.

John Grimes, the head of the Australian Solar Council, said he would not comment on the reports on the Standards Australia draft.

But he noted that there are standards in the US and Japan that did not ban battery storage devices in homes. In Germany, where more than 30,000 devices were installed last year, lithium ion battery storage was banned only in bedrooms.

‘There needs to be clear evidence tabled that these installations represent an unacceptable risk,’ he told RenewEconomy. ‘It has to be evidence based.’

The committee is understood to have included representatives from the solar and storage industries (both lithium-ion and other technologies), networks, consumer groups,  fire authorities and independent consultants.

This article was first published in RenewEconomy and is republished here with permission.

 

 


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3 COMMENTS

  1. I am somewhat reluctant to comment on this story as I am not an expert in this field, and I fear I comment too regularly on letters.

    However… About eight years ago, when installing solar on the roof in my Byron Bay townhouse, eight years ago, my electrician, who is extremely thorough and has worked in the Shire for several decades, noted that because I lived in a town house, what he wanted to do, although there was no risk associated with it, might be illegal due to compliance with Australian Standards.

    He urged me to make formal representation to the Australian Standards for a modification of their standards. It was then, and probably still is, an Australian/New Zealand standing committee.

    As a result all members of that committee became aware of my representation. A number of them contacted me and said that my request was perfectly reasonable and practical, and would support me and that it had wider implications for the expansion of renewables.

    When the meeting happened it was rejected. Privately committee members later told me that although they spoke in support of the proposal and constituted a majority on Council, the two largest bodies on the Council who both represented the largest, power distributors in both countries, and who were in a virtual monopoly situation, effectively vetoed the presentation.

    As Giles Parkinson reports the Australian Standards committee includes “representatives from the solar and storage industries (both lithium-ion and other technologies), networks, consumer groups, fire authorities and independent consultants” their voices are likely to count for little.

    As is the case with Malcolm Turnbull’s capitulation to the fossil fuel industry, it would not surprise me if this is another case of how the power distribution companies are trying to screw renewable industries, even down to the level of dominating this particular Australian Standards committee.

    Jim Beatson, Byron Bay

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