Date: Mar 21, 2019

Everyone is familiar with the saying about an ounce of prevention. California Professional Firefighters urge the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to take a common sense, important action to help prevent avoidable fire hazards.

When it meets March 21 (tomorrow), we urge the CSLB to clarify regulations to ensure that only qualified, licensed and adequately trained electrical contractors are authorized to install battery energy storage systems.

Battery energy storage systems are rechargeable battery systems that capture and store energy — from solar systems or the electric grid.

These systems act effectively as a mini-power plant. Because battery energy storage systems capture and store energy for later use, these systems are a key technology to help California meet our clean energy and emissions reduction goals and expand the adoption of solar, wind, and other clean energy sources.

More and more, these systems are being installed in our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. However, if not installed and maintained correctly by qualified and licensed electrical contractors and electricians, battery energy storage systems pose unique fire, electrical and public safety risks to installers, consumers, utility workers, emergency personnel and firefighters.

Fires involving battery energy storage systems are particularly dangerous for firefighters as they burn at extreme heat, can react violently with water and can reignite even after being extinguished. Firefighters are increasingly reporting on the dangers these systems can cause with faulty installation or poor maintenance.

Improper installation can lead to electrocution, arc flashes, arc blasts, fires, explosions, thermal runaway and exposure to hazardous chemicals and gases. These risks are so intense that in some cases, they could affect the entire electrical system the storage system is connected to or even the electric grid itself.

For these reasons, current regulations require a C-10 electrical contractor’s license to install battery energy storage systems as a stand-alone system. However, a loophole in the regulations has allowed C-46 licensed contractors (solar photovoltaic companies) and their employees to install battery energy storage systems when paired with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

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