Standards Australia Bombarded With Home Energy Storage Submissions

Draft AS 5139 Battery Standards

Australian residential battery system standards | Image: Ricinator

Further development of aspects of controversial Australian battery storage standards will be paused after a huge response to the draft of AS 5139.

The public consultation period for the draft AS 5139 ended last week and resulted in more than three thousand comments being submitted, many in relation to how battery storage systems should be installed in residential scenarios.

A particularly contentious issue was a requirement in the draft for some solar battery systems, including lithium-ion chemistry based energy storage devices, to be installed outside and in a separate enclosure. Such a requirement would substantially add to the cost of installing home energy storage; putting it out of reach of more Australian households.

One of the parties to lodge a submission regarding the draft AS 5139 standard was the Clean Energy Council.  The CEC stated if home energy storage units meet an agreed upon set of appropriate international product safety standards and are installed by an accredited installer following clear guidelines, there should be no need for battery systems to be installed in a separate external enclosure.

The CEC said the burden of demonstrating that products are safe to use should be on the manufacturer.

Given the response to the draft standard, Standards Australia announced late last week what it called “public policy tensions” need to be settled by respective governments before any further standards development work is progressed.

“In Standards Australia’s view, our technical committee is not the appropriate forum to resolve the public policy tensions related to public safety, clean energy and minimum residential construction requirements,” says a statement from the organisation.

Standards Australia has offered to bring key stakeholders together to commence a discussion and establish a framework to address the contentious public policy issues.

“Standards Australia will continue to work with its technical committee and all stakeholders on this issue and hopes that a parallel policy dialogue will give our technical committee the guidance it needs to get on with the technical work.”

Meanwhile, it says it will consider how to work with its technical committee on other aspects contained in the draft standard.

Updated Battery Installation Guidelines

In related news, the CEC has developed updated and expanded comprehensive guidelines for battery installations, the result of  extensive industry consultation. It says the guidelines “will continue to provide a platform to ensure the safety and quality of battery storage installations in Australia – something crucial for the future of this exciting technology.”

The updated guidelines will become mandatory on 1 November 2017 for installers who are accredited for battery installations.

About Michael Bloch

Solar tech guru, energy industry expert and literary genius - none of these accolades have been used to describe Michael Bloch by anyone, anywhere, at any time. However, he is rather enthusiastic about solar energy and battery storage, so we let him hang out with us. We even gave him a copy of the highly sought-after official Solar Quotes calendar. Michael is based in the nation's capital, Adelaide, which is heaps good.

Comments

  1. Pat Comerford says:

    This temporary backdown by SA begs the question how could they get the draft legislation so wrong. One needs to look deeper into this “Technical Committee ” look at the members backgrounds, qualifications etc. have they been unduly influenced by vested interests?
    We have seen that nothing is off limits to the entrenched opponents to renewable energy and its impact of their buisiness model of those vested interests.

    • You don’t have to look for a conspiracy (although if you are of a certain mindset you will certainly do that)
      Ask yourself, what is the common element in:
      – Samsung phones that caught fire
      – Lithium Ion batteries in planes, which also caught fire (luckily few of these)
      – cladding on buildings which also catches fire
      – asbestos insulation sprayed loose into roofs in Canberra in the 1980s
      – pink batts installation deaths.

      The commonality is that these were all “good” ideas that went horribly wrong. I believe that the Technical Committee is simply playing safe

  2. Greg Nikoloff says:

    This is a semi transparent, half arsed attempt at crippling home energy storage before it can get a look in.

    This may appear to be an Australian only issue, but the standard is a joint standard with New Zealand. Its proper title is “AS/NZS 5139”. And once adopted would have the force of law in NZ as it would in Australia.

    However, the NZ Government agency (Standards NZ) which is supposed to be involved took a very hands off approach saying it was a technical standard and they didn’t have expertise to be involved. So kept quiet on the whole thing.

    A newspaper story appeared in the NZ press about it earlier this year:

    See: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/95201430/proposed-new-rules-would-stop-solar-battery-packs-inside

    And the story had some interesting points on the whole subject such as:

    1. We allow petrol powered cars to park inside houses [in internal garages], and some have up to 60 litres of highly inflammable petrol in them and bugger all practical fire walling off of the garage from the rest of the house .

    2. We allow Electric Vehicles to park in those same garages, and the average Tesla will have 4-8 times the storage capacity of currently available battery storage. A Nissan leaf about double.

    3. We allow people to have gas cookers [and piped gas supplies] in their houses which are proven to be far more dangerous than battery storage systems.

    I agree there is potential for fires, but only if improper standards or poor quality components are used. After all when Boeing had fires and other problems with LiON batteries on Dreamliners, it was Tesla who showed them how to “do” LiON batteries properly and safely.

    As one of the Kiwi installers noted:

    “If you stick to good quality you won’t have any issues. If you allow crap into the country then you’ll have issues. They shouldn’t be installed if they’re not good enough to not catch fire.”

    So all in all, this crap standard is just attempting to bolt and weld the stable door shut to prevent the [battery storage] horse ever escaping.

    And I think there needs to be a proper review of what the problem this standard is attempting to prevent or resolve.

  3. Greg Nikoloff says:

    Those are all examples where people *knew* better but:
    willingly ignored the rules, the law, best practise and the existing standards.

    Asbestos being used where it shouldn’t still is not a new problem, products, especially from China can be rife with it and there are recent examples of this in both Australia and NZ to be found.

    Any technology is dangerous if misapplied. And there are plenty of examples of unintended consequences of technologies. Freon in Fridges and lead in petrol being two of the biggest 20th century ones I can think of.

    But stupid rules masquerading as “standards” like this one did won’t prevent the sorts of issues from happening if people don’t actually follow the rules.

    Case in point: the example you cite of building [composite] cladding catching fire, you would have to question why any external building cladding product that could EVER actually catch fire and/or burn was ever actually allowed into the country or onto any building. Because once they catch fire they are near impossible to put out at any height.

    There are pretty strict rules about building product fire safety already.
    But these fire hazard cladding products all seem to run rough shod over basic [and hard learned] fire prevention rules simply because they save someone some money..

    But you have to put it into perspective, buildings clad in wood products would be just as inflammable – yet we don’t outlaw those everywhere on the planet.

    So its a balancing act between safety concerns and overall benefits.

    Just because one technology or application of it is found wanting, doesn’t mean the technology itself needs to be regulated.

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