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In response to ‘battery bunker’ standards debacle, AEMC recommends new body to oversee distributed energy

The Australian Energy Market Commission has called for the creation of a new regulatory body to oversee the distributed energy generation market, including storage technology.

In its final report on the Distribution Market Model, the energy market rule maker indicated the draft standards for battery storage, put together by Standards Australia, were not “fit for purpose”, and requested the Clean Energy Council “explore the merits of seeking accreditation of a body to develop standards …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, ASNZ5139, which requires battery systems to be located outside of homes and garages, in purpose-built concrete “kiosks” or “bunkers”.

The rule, which critics say will effectively ban the installation of lithium-ion batteries in homes, attracted a record of just under 3,000 submissions from industry players and bodies, and has now prompted the AEMC to weigh in on the matter.

“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.”

Not everyone agrees, however: “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 RenewEconomy.

“The recent public consultation program of Draft AS/NZS 5139 actually showed the system works! …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.”

As for the CEC, it says its preference remains to work with Standards Australia to “accelerate and improve” existing processes, but it also sees the need for a separate body for future such cases.

“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,” the CEC said in an emailed statement to RE

“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.”

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