Australian watchdog’s plea for urgent lithium safety rules

Australian watchdog’s plea for urgent lithium safety rules

Australian watchdog’s plea for urgent lithium safety rules 753 916 Energy Storage Journal

October 11, 2023: Australia’s consumer watchdog is calling for a harmonized electrical safety regulatory framework across all states to help combat fires and other incidents linked to lithium ion battery products.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a report published on October 5 there has been one fatality in the country attributed to a lithium battery fire and numerous reports of injuries in Australia.

Consistent state and territory legislation regulating products containing lithium batteries is needed — pooling the expertise of electrical safety regulators throughout Australia.

A national product safety incident database is also needed to support identification and analysis of consumer product safety hazards, the report says.

The exact number of incidents is unknown because many go underreported and the problem is compounded by differences in how data is collected from state to state.

However, the ACCC says there has been a six-fold increase in media reports relating to lithium battery incidents between February 2021 and February 2023 and 23 recalls between January 2017 and December 2022 involving lithium batteries and products containing them.

Those recalls affected an estimated 89,000 products on the market, the report says.

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe (pictured) said: “We are concerned by increasing reports of lithium ion battery fires resulting in property damage and serious injuries, including burns, chemical exposure and smoke inhalation.”

By 2026, most Australian homes will have on average 33 devices powered by lithium ion batteries, the commission says.

The watchdog is calling for a nationwide consumer education campaign on how to safely use lithium battery products and correctly dispose of used batteries.

Meanwhile, the ACCC confirmed that LG Energy Solution Australia is recalling almost 17,000 home solar batteries in Australia because they may overheat and catch fire.

The recall follows a separate warning issued by the ACCC last November after a recall of  “potentially deadly” faulty batteries in residential energy storage systems.

Energy Storage Journal reported earlier this month that Genex Power was investigating a fire at an Australian BESS involving a Tesla battery unit design modified following a blaze at a separate facility in the country two years earlier.

Renewables and energy developer Genex said one of the 40 lithium ion Megapack units at the 50MW/100MWh Bouldercombe Battery Project caught fire on the evening of September 26.