The development of any rules that touch communities, industry, new technologies and life safety is worth paying attention to.
For some time, a diverse group of committed people have been working together to develop a set of rules for the installation of on-site battery storage in Australia.
There are many different voices and many different views and a whole range of variables to take into account when looking at the issue.
There’s been a lot of reporting around the work recently, with a slant very much toward standards stifling innovation and adding to the cost of installation. This commentary does not reflect either the reality or the purpose of the standards development process.
There are many who are genuinely concerned that Australia was planning to ‘ban’ onsite storage. They ask questions like:
"Why would Australia seek to stand in the way of technology that has so much upside in terms of renewable energy roll out?"
"Why do we even need an Australian Standard for energy storage?"
"If it’s good enough for Malcolm Turnbull, it should be good enough for everyone."
An Australian Standard for battery storage installation?
Standards support a global uptake in a range of battery storage solutions, which is continuing at pace. The cost of systems is also coming down. This, combined with the increased cost of traditional energy, is leading to a much higher community demand. There are different types of technology that support many different systems. As in any market, there are market leaders, and others.
A broad range of stakeholders from the clean energy sector through to energy network operators, energy safety regulators and consumer representatives approached Standards Australia to commence work on a standard for battery energy storage systems. The new Australian and New Zealand Standard would set minimum requirements for the installation of these products. We started developing this voluntary standard covering:
- installation requirements for all battery systems connected to inverter energy systems, covering all battery types
- mitigation of hazards associated with battery energy storage system installations
- classifying batteries based on hazards, and not chemistry type.
Why do we even need an Australian Standard?
In the battery storage conversation, the best reason to ask why we need a standard is to ask what would happen if we didn’t have one (international, Australian, or otherwise).
The absence of a single and agreed set of national rules between government, industry and community interests would see multiple regulators setting their own rules.
As has happened in other areas, in the absence of an agreed set of national rules, jurisdictional regulators often need to set their own rules. Motorcycle helmet regulation is a great example. A few years ago, you couldn’t ride a motorbike across Australia without changing helmets at state and territory borders. It's not the direct ‘fault’ of any one party, but more a result of an absence of a single set of national rules.
It would also see a lack of certainty for industry members that want to invest and innovate.
Having a single set of national rules for the installation of on-site storage will give industry the certainty to invest and the community the confidence to purchase. The alternative is an uncertainty that will hinder the uptake of technology and see resources diverted from industry across multiple fronts.
Finally, a lack of a standard would create community confusion and a reticence to move to new and emerging technologies.
Consumer confidence comes from market certainty. A lack of a set of rules would not lead to consumer confidence in the uptake of new technology.
What’s next with the standards development process?
So far, Standards Australia has been working with a group of stakeholders to get through the first stage of the process – developing a document for public review which is an absolutely fundamental part of our open standards development process.
A campaign about supposed details of a document, still in draft form, and yet to be released for public scrutiny is in itself not helpful. What has been helpful, ahead of the release of the draft, is the raised profile of the document. This can only help.
The document will be available for public review later this year, at which point Standards Australia will be seeking comment from the public on the whole document.
The comment will inform further work, before getting to a stage in the standards process where all interests will collectively decide whether the document should be published, or not.