Australia’s energy storage industry looks to have notched up a quiet win earlier this week, with the news that Standards Australia appears likely to scrap draft guidelines that could have effectively banned the installation of lithium-ion battery systems in Australian homes and garages.
In a media release on Monday, Standards Australia said it had gathered together a group of senior industry and government leaders to get the introduction of residential on-site battery storage standards back on track, at what is a crucial time of growth for the industry.
“There was unanimous agreement in the room of the need to both encourage the uptake of new technology and manage community safety expectations,” said SA CEO Bronwyn Evans.
“The clear path forward set today will see us working hard and working together to get the relevant standards in place as soon as we can.”
That new path appears to involve shifting the responsibility for product safety from installers to battery manufacturers, as is the standard adhered to in most relevant international markets.
It will be a welcome reboot to the standards process, since it hit a wall at the beginning of the year due to a draft guideline, known as AS/NZS 5139, that suggested lithium-ion battery storage could only be installed in free-standing “kiosks”.
That draft standard provoked an immediate backlash from industry, who described it as a major over-reach, and noted that it would likely add thousands of dollars to the cost of home battery storage installation, putting it out of reach of a huge potential residential market.
The Clean Energy Council, which has been a member of both the original standards committee (it was actually chair) and the recent roundtable, has this week declared AS/NZS all but gone.
“A roundtable held by Standards Australia last week agreed to review this requirement and provides the right step towards a sensible standard which would allow batteries to be installed inside a house if the battery units meet appropriate international standards and are installed by an accredited installer to clearly defined standards,” the CEC said in a media statement on Monday.
“The Clean Energy Council and its members have taken a leadership role in calling for the removal of a proposed requirement for AS/NZS 5139 that would be overly restrictive and require batteries to be installed outside of a house.”
Sandy Atkins, the CEC’s executive general manager of installation integrity, said the outcomes of the meeting were a positive for the industry.
“The decision to review this requirement is an important one for the future of the Australian consumer storage industry,” he said in comments on Monday.
“While consumer safety is paramount for the industry, such requirements are unnecessary if battery units meet appropriate international product standards and are installed by an accredited installer.
“The pathway outlined by Standards Australia will shift the primary responsibility for product safety on to the product manufacturers instead of installers. This is a positive change as the alternative would ultimately result in higher costs to consumers.”
The Energy Storage Council, meanwhile, appears to be more cautious about the implications of this new-found “consensus,” particularly in light of the fact that it was not a part of the all-important meeting, despite being at the forefront of efforts to have the AS/NZS 5139 rule scrapped.
As we reported here in August, the ESC lobbied the industry to register its displeasure with the draft standard, when it was opened to public submissions by SA. At the end of the nine-week consultation period, more than 2,900 public submissions were made.
“Curiously the Energy Storage Council was not at this roundtable,” said ESC president Steve Blume in emailed comments to RenewEconomy.
“So the industry body representing the largest number of manufacturers and installers with the greatest interest in ensuring safety of systems, not least because their businesses depends on strong safety guidelines and standards, was not invited.
“So the notion that there is consensus is wrong. After 3000 submissions to the consultation program the ESC was not given the courtesy of an invitation to the first opportunity to discuss the issues.
Blume noted that Standards Australia had since assured the ESC that it would be involved in future roundtable meetings, but also said it had offered no justification as to why “the organisation that has been leading the push to have internationally recognised standards and safety guidelines adopted in Australia,” was not invited last week.