China may investigate energy storage plants for fire risks, local media says

By Colleen Howe

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese authorities are considering ordering large-scale investigations of energy storage plants for fire risks, in a sign of tighter standards for China’s booming battery energy storage industry, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on Monday.

Prompted by recent disasters at energy storage facilities, authorities have already carried out safety inspections at some energy storage manufacturers, developers and operators, the report said.

A June 26 fire at a lithium battery factory in Seoul, sparked by battery explosions, killed 23 people, most of them Chinese migrant workers, making it one of the deadliest industrial accidents in recent years.

In March, following a fire at a commercial energy storage facility in China’s Wenzhou, in eastern Zhejiang province, the local National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) ordered a round of inspections and fire safety upgrades.

Many of China’s energy storage plants at renewables facilities, built to fulfil local government mandates, have been little used and could unknowingly pose safety risks, the 21st Century report added, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

Looking to boost the use of renewable electricity by smoothing out fluctuations in wind and solar generation, China has in recent years built the world’s largest battery energy storage fleet, mostly using lithium ion batteries.

But fire risk remains a concern with the technology, especially with lower-quality batteries, experts say.

The NDRC did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment on Monday. The Ministry of Emergency Management could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Colleen Howe and Beijing newsroom; Editing by David Holmes)


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