The second public-private joint investigation committee on energy storage system (ESS) fire accidents has tentatively put the blame on defective batteries, battery industry insiders say.
The committee held a meeting on Jan. 15 to finalize its report. Currently, it is carrying out verification work to determine whether the battery defects stemmed from a faulty manufacturing process or problems in the installation and operation processes. It is likely to present the outcome of its probe soon.
The first investigation committee wrapped up its probe in June last year without clearly identifying the causes of a series of ESS fires. Since then, five fires have additionally occurred, virtually paralyzing the Korean ESS ecosystem. Three of the five ESS fires under investigation involved LG Chem's batteries and the remaining two Samsung SDI's batteries.
In particular, a debate has been going on over Samsung SDI batteries. "The committee raised some issues, but all of them have been clarified by Samsung SDI," a Samsung SDI official explained,
A sense of crisis is growing among battery makers as they are likely to be branded as the main culprit for the fires. Last October, Samsung SDI announced safety measures to restore the ESS ecosystem, regardless of the causes of the fires. It announced that it would pay up to 200 billion won (about US$172 million) to install fire safety systems at all ESS sites all over Korea.
LG Chem is also developing anti-fire battery products and has been paying for the losses that ESS operators have suffered. It is estimated that LG Chem's provisions for ESS fires, which will be announced along with fourth-quarter business results, will reach 90 billion won (about US$77.6 million).
Above all, battery industry insiders say that it is regrettable that the blame for fires is put on batteries, although there has been no fire at overseas ESS sites where the same products were installed.