The nation’s energy market rule maker has called for the creation of a whole new regulatory body – in place of Standards Australia – to oversee the distributed energy generation market, including storage technology.
In its final report on the Distribution Market Model, the Australian Energy Market Commission indicated the draft standards for battery storage were not “fit for purpose”.
It requested that the Clean Energy Council “explore the merits of seeking accreditation of a body to develop standards, which are not already covered in the (National Electricity Rules), that will facilitate the connection of distribution energy resources.”
The recommendation follows the industry-wide rejection of a proposed battery installation guideline from Standards Australia, which threaten to effectively ban the installation of lithium-ion battery storage systems inside homes and garages, on the basis that they were a fire risk.
The Draft Battery Standard ASNZ5139, which requires battery systems to be located outside of homes and garages, in purpose-built concrete “kiosks” or “bunkers”, attracted nearly 3,000 submissions from industry players and bodies, many of them calling for the draft to be scrapped, or else risk nobbling the industry before it was even out of the blocks.
Indeed, reports emerged this week that German battery giant Sonnen – which has been vocal in its opposition to the proposed rule – had put on hold plans for local battery production until the issue was resolved.
“The draft Standard is not evidence-based and has enormous implications for the Australian and global battery storage industry,” the Energy Storage Council said in a member newsletter on Monday.
“The Energy Storage Council will oppose the adoption of the Draft Standard. The Energy Storage Council will vote against the Draft Standard and will urge other committee members to do the same.”
The AEMC, taking stock of “recent adverse commentary about proposed battery installation standards”, and in consideration of the fact that “similar tensions could emerge in relation to all of the relevant (distributed energy market) standards,” appears to see Standards Australia as the key problem.
“The Commission considers that there is merit in the electricity sector exploring the costs and benefits of accrediting a separate organisation to develop sector-specific standards particularly in relation to distributed energy resources,” it says in the report.
“Highly specified standards are likely to increase the costs of distributed energy resources technologies and possibly seek to address issues that may not eventuate, which may inhibit uptake.
On the other hand, it continues, “well-developed standards that consider the expected high penetration of distributed energy resources, and their likely uses and technical impacts, will likely increase the ability of distribution networks to adapt to future technical challenges, and for the owners of distributed energy resources to participate actively in the energy market.”
While all parties would agree on the last two points, the difficulty lies in arriving at those well-developed standards, and getting them in place in time for the forecast boom in home battery storage uptake in Australia. And this has caused tension within the clean energy industry.
The CEC, which is well represented on the Standards Australia panel and chaired one of its key committees, has been criticised for sending mixed messages on ASNZ5139; last week referring to it in a CEC BESS guidelines update, and this week describing it as unnecessary.
The ESC, meanwhile, has been for more direct in its opposition to the rule, and has been critical of the CECfor not nipping the proposed battery ban rule in the bud straight away.
But if the AEMC’s weigh-in this week has achieved anything, it has united the Clean Energy Council and the Energy Storage Council in their objection to the establishment of yet another regulatory body in an already convoluted and inefficient process.
“The notion that a new and separate scientific body needs to be established would add further delay in getting standards in place for emerging or rapidly developing technologies,” said ESC president Steve Blume, in emailed comments to RE.
“The recent public consultation program of Draft AS/NZS 5139 actually showed the system works! The problem with the Standards development process is that that public consultation is too late. It is a closed shop until then with self-selecting ‘insider’ participants.
“As the ESC argued in it submissions to SA on SA5139, when we have the market running ahead of the standards, especially at small consumer level, then we need a more flexible and responsive approach, not more bureaucracy,” Blume said
“In most cases there are international standards and guidelines that could be used. In this case from the IEC and the US. There is another SA committee just re-formed so as to have ‘direct text adoption’ as an Australian Standard of IEC62619 as a pro-tem measure,” he added. “That can happen quickly.”
As for the CEC, it made its views on AS/NZ5139 a little clearer via a media release on Tuesday:
“The energy storage industry is united in calling for changes to a draft technical standard released for comment by Standards Australia that requires energy storage units to be installed outside the home,” the statement said.
“The recent introduction of international standards for products provide an appropriate benchmark for quality and render the additional requirement redundant.”
CEC’s head of installation integrity, Sandy Atkins added that there were “many positives in the rest of the document which can be fixed with some tweaks and collaboration across industry experts.”
And on the AEMC’s request this week, the CEC’s response has been much like that from the ESC: it does nothing to address the bigger issue, which is the pace of change across the industry and the time it takes for standards to be developed and approved.
“While we appreciate the recommendation from the AEMC, the Clean Energy Council’s preference is to work with Standards Australia to accelerate and improve these existing processes,” the CEC said in an emailed statement to RE.
“Standards Australia is doing a good job in challenging circumstances and we acknowledge that securing consensus among a very broad group of stakeholders is never easy.
“One of the challenges is that processes like this depend on decisions from the electrical safety body in every state and territory. The Clean Energy Council believes that it would make sense to form a national electrical safety authority, which would make the process more efficient by reducing delays and inconsistencies across jurisdictions.
“Regulators have struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the energy sector over the last decade.
“We continue to play an important role in the development and updating of new technical standards as well as the development of installation guidelines and other documents to help fill the gap while these standards are being finalised.”