The US Congress had pressured the utility company to make this decision. Senior US authorities issued cautions over possible cybersecurity risks to vital infrastructure, such as the electrical grid, from hackers associated with the Chinese Government.
The move to phase out CATL products at civilian projects follows a temporary disconnection of CATL storage batteries at Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune in December 2023.
The disconnection was a response to concerns regarding the battery supplier’s ties to China’s ruling Communist Party.
The permanent shutdown occurred less than a year after the project’s inauguration, which saw US military officials in attendance.
Duke Energy’s shift away from CATL batteries will have significant implications for the utility’s supply chain. It could influence the broader energy storage market, which is largely dominated by Chinese companies.
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Duke Energy said in response to Reuters‘ enquiries: “In partnership with policymakers and the Department of the Navy, we have made the decision to decommission the CATL battery energy storage system at Camp Lejeune and replace it with a domestic or allied nation supplier.
“By 2027, we are voluntarily moving away from specifying CATL battery energy storage technologies.”
The statement went on to say that the company supports a “robust American supply chain.”
Last month, Duke Energy executives, including its chief security and information officer, met with the House of Representatives’ select committee on China to discuss network security concerns related to the batteries.
Despite expressing confidence in the security measures, the executives conveyed their willingness to address congressional worries.
They also revealed that the company’s batteries were under consideration for two dozen other projects.
The utility has not disclosed how the exclusion of CATL from its supply chain will affect these projects or what alternative battery types might be used at Camp Lejeune.
Duke Energy confirmed that it did not have direct contracts with CATL and had acquired the batteries through third-party providers.
CATL did not immediately comment.
Following the initial disconnection at Camp Lejeune, the company stated that its batteries had undergone stringent US safety and security evaluations.
The company’s battery energy storage systems are intended for installation at commercial projects across the country including sites in Texas and near Las Vegas, Nevada.
With US utility-scale battery capacity estimated at 16 GW at the end of 2023 and projected to nearly double by the end of 2024, the push to avoid Chinese batteries could present a significant supply challenge for utility operators.
Despite industry opinions suggesting that the Chinese battery cells do not pose severe security risks, concerns remain about the vulnerability of the batteries’ communication systems to hacking.
Security experts warn that such breaches could destabilise the electricity grid through manipulated surges and cuts in current.
Legislative pressure has been mounting to reduce US reliance on Chinese batteries.
A provision in the current year’s defence spending bill prohibits the US Defense Department from procuring batteries from CATL and other leading Chinese manufacturers from 2027.