Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee to Carry an Inspection on Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy and Focus on ESS issue

Oct 01, 2019

It is expected that fire accidents involving ESS (Energy Storage System) will be at the center of discussions during this year’s inspection of government offices. Because there were three additional fire accidents even after South Korean Government came up with a measure, there will be continuous criticisms towards South Korean Government and battery manufacturers. Critics will also bring up a need to reexamine causes of these fire accidents.
According to the industry and the National Assembly, Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee chose Vice-President Kim Joon-ho of LG Chem and Vice-President Lim Young-ho of Samsung SDI as witnesses for the inspection of government offices that will take place on the 7th of October on Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s energy sector. This is because most of 26 fire accidents since 2017 involved ESS based on batteries from these two companies.
Vice-President Kim is in charge of LG Chem’s Battery Business Headquarters’ Quality System Innovation while Vice-President Lim is the department head of Medium and Large Battery Business Headquarters that oversees Samsung SDI’s ESS and electric vehicle battery business.
Because ESS is a complicated system made up of various parts, critics say that Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee chose Vice-President Kim and Vice-President Lim as a show since there is a limit to how much LG Chem and Samsung SDI can analyze into possible causes of these fire accidents.
Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee was initially planning to bring witnesses for its inspection on Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s trade and industry sectors on the 2nd. However, it changed the date to the 7th, which is the day of the inspection on energy sector, after considering accidents that are linked to ESS and renewable energy. Although it was considering bringing presidents from LG Chem and Samsung SDI as witnesses, it ultimately chose vice-presidents to be witnesses.
Level of interests on fire accidents involving ESS is very high as five members within Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee requested witnesses. Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy is also preparing necessary answers as it expects there will be many questions about ESS during the inspection.

Director Lee Seung-woo (left) of Korea Agency for Technology and Standards, Director Kim Jung-hoon of the responsible investigation committee, and Professor Choi Yoon-seok of Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology made the results from their investigation public and announced a measure to tighten up safety to prevent these accidents from reoccurring at a Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s pressroom that is located inside of Government Complex Sejong in last June. (Source: Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy) <Director Lee Seung-woo (left) of Korea Agency for Technology and Standards, Director Kim Jung-hoon of the responsible investigation committee, and Professor Choi Yoon-seok of Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology made the results from their investigation public and announced a measure to tighten up safety to prevent these accidents from reoccurring at a Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s pressroom that is located inside of Government Complex Sejong in last June. (Source: Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy) >

Controversy surrounding ESS has grown as there were three additional fire accidents even after South Korean Government announced the results it found from its investigation and its measure to tighten up safety in June. After there was a fire accident at a solar generation plant in Chungnam on the 30th of last month, there was another accident at a wind generation plant in Gwangwon on the 24th of this month. After five days, there was another accident at a solar generation plant in Gyeongbuk. Two of these accidents involved energy storage systems based on LG Chem’s batteries while the other one involved an ESS based on Samsung SDI’s batteries.
It is likely that Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee along with MOTIE will hold LG Chem and Samsung SDI responsible and ask them to take follow-up measures. However, it seems that there will be different point of views between the opposition party and the ruling party within Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee. It is expected that the ruling party will hold LG Chem and Samsung SDI responsible for these accidents and ask them to take follow-up measures while the opposition party will focus on government policies and poor management of the responsible investigation committee.
“Even after we consider the fact the ESS market started to take its shape recently, we are extremely disappointed that LG Chem and Samsung SDI handled matters involving these fire accidents poorly.” said a representative for a member of the ruling party within Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee. “If LG Chem and Samsung SDI take lackadaisical approach towards this issue, they can face criticisms from foreign markets and provide opportunities for other upcoming manufacturers to catch up to them.”
On the other hand, a representative for a member of the opposition party said that the opposition party will point out lackadaisical approach by South Korean Government and the responsible investigation committee and that there needs to be a different measure after investigating these accidents again since South Korean Government and battery manufacturers cannot provide clear reasons why these accidents occurred.
There is also a growing voice within the industry that asks for more thorough investigation rather than the mechanism of these accidents.
“Many experts did not agree with the announcement made by the responsible investigation committee and there needs to be systematic analysis towards composition of battery system and different issues that can arise from long-term operation of ESS rather than putting out measures just to silence critics temporarily.” said a representative for the industry.
Staff Reporter Jung, Hyeonjung | iam@etnews.com & Staff Reporter Choi, Jaepil | jpchoi@etnews.com

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