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Australia issues draft home storage fire-risk rules

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 14:30 -- News Editor
Australia issues draft home storage fire-risk rules

Proposed regulations in Australia that would prioritise fire safety for the use of lithium-based batteries inside homes have been opened to consultation.

The draft regulations by Standards Australia follow reports that emerged earlier this year that new guidelines could ban the introduction of on-site lithium-ion battery storage in homes.

According to the independent standards body, the provisions proposed would “exclude certain battery systems from being installed inside domestic homes”.

Standards Australia acknowledged its work on the proposals had “not been without controversy”, but said it had worked with “experts from industry and government, together with community interests to prepare the consultation draft”.

“It is clear that different views exist amongst stakeholders as to whether the draft provisions are set appropriately and whether the benefits of emergent technology are appropriately balanced with community safety expectations,” the body said.

Standards Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans (pictured) said: “Our standards development process is based on the principles of transparency and consensus, and this standard is no different.”

However, Australian battery company Redflow Limited has welcomed the proposals. Redflow said the draft regulations would mean lithium-ion batteries, which are classified as ‘fire hazard class one’, “must not be installed inside a domestic dwelling, within a metre of any access or egress area or under any part of a domestic dwelling”.

Redflow CEO Simon Hackett said: “While manufacturers say modern lithium-based batteries are designed not to overheat, it only takes one poorly designed or deployed battery to catch fire at night to cost lives.”

Hackett said: Even if a lithium battery does not cause a fire, a poorly-contained battery may act as an accelerant in an ordinary house fire with potentially disastrous consequences for both residents and first defenders. So, we welcome this emphasis on ensuring that lithium-based batteries are deployed in a way to minimise their fire risk.”

However, Hackett said: “It’s also worth noting that not all batteries contain the same risk. As a completely different technology to lithium-based batteries, the Australian-designed ZCell zinc-bromine flow battery is inherently non-flammable, with a bromine-based electrolyte and an overall safe design.”

There are no current Standards Australia regulations for in-home battery installations in the country.

Industry and consumer groups have until 15 August to challenge Standard Australia’s proposals.