Amendment 58A

Part of Energy Bill [HL] - Report (1st Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 28 March 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 9:45, 28 March 2023

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his amendment on requesting a report into the fire risks of photovoltaic panels, lithium ion battery storage facilities and similar technologies. I was delighted to hear of his welcome in the Budget for the VAT exemptions.

First, I reassure the noble Lord that the health and safety regimes surrounding net-zero technologies are a priority for the Government. All electrical equipment requires safe installation and use. The Government recognise the importance of net-zero technologies such as electricity storage and solar PV in their ability to help us to use energy more flexibly and decarbonise our electricity system cost-effectively.

The data collected so far indicates that the risk from solar PV fires is low. However, it is right that we work with the industry to understand why any incidents happen and help to stop future occurrences. Over a three-year period and an overall cost of £135,000, the Government commissioned the Building Research Establishment to develop new guidelines for PV system installers, designers and the fire services, with the aim of making solar PV even safer. In February this year, the RISC Authority, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and Solar Energy UK published an updated joint code of practice on recommendations for fire risk prevention in UK solar systems. Grid-scale lithium ion battery energy storage systems are covered by a robust regulatory framework, which requires manufacturers to ensure that products are safe before they are placed on the market and installed correctly, and that any safety issues found after products are on the market or after installations are dealt with.

In 2018, the Government set up an industry-led electricity storage health and safety governance group, which is responsible for ensuring that an appropriate, robust and future-proofed health and safety framework is sustained as the industry develops and electricity storage deployment increases. The Government are currently working with the group to support the development of a product and installation publicly available standard for domestic small-scale battery storage and guidance for grid-scale storage. They will both be published this year.

Most of the specific issues of e-scooters and bicycles fall within the remit of the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, and I shall ask it to write to the noble Lord. I can also confirm that Defra will soon publish a consultation on battery recycling.

I do not believe that a specific report on fire risk of photovoltaic panels, lithium ion battery storage facilities and similar technologies mandated by the Secretary of State is necessary. While I welcome the noble Lord’s intention, we believe that working alongside industry and the fire services to manage specific risks is the appropriate way forward. It ensures that these vital technologies are installed, operated and decommissioned in a safe way, while still delivering the best outcomes for consumers. I hope that the noble Lord can recognise the Government’s sustained commitment to enabling the deployment of net-zero technologies in a safe and sustainable way.

In addition, on the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, about lithium ion batteries and their ability to combust, I visited last week a very clever packaging firm called Tri-Wall in Monmouth, which has developed packaging specifically for lithium ion batteries to be transported by air safely. The packaging itself will detect any change in heat in the batteries that it contains and change the structure of the packaging into water that will put the fire out before it even gets out of the packaging. Very clever technologies are being developed specifically around lithium ion battery transport and storage.

I hope that, with those few reassuring remarks, we can ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.