The protracted process of defining a new battery storage safety standard has finally reached its conclusion. In a brief statement on Friday, Standards Australia announced it had released AS/NZS: 5139:2019, titled Electrical installations – Safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment, opening many questions as to the regulations impact on the industry.
The standard aims to fill a “gap in safety guidance” for the Australian home battery storage sector, particularly in regard to concerns about potential the ignition and combustion of flammable materials present in the battery or battery system or enclosure. “Given there has never been an Australian standard for this new technology, developing this guidance has been a huge task and is a testament to the dedication of those involved,” said Standards Australia’s Head of Stakeholder Engagement, Daniel Chidgey.
Developed for use by manufacturers, system integrators, designers and installers of battery energy storage systems, AS/NZS: 5139:2019 intends to set out the requirements for the safety and installation of battery systems connected to power conversion equipment for the supply of AC and DC power.“This standard achieves a lot for the sector by applying a risk-based process to ensure appropriate installation methods are applied depending on the hazards that are identified,” said Sandy Atkins from Standards Australia’s Technical Committee.
The new regulation comes as a result of a consensus, following differing views put forward by the industry. Ahead of the ballot stage of the standard development, one of the vociferous opponents to the draft standard, the Smart Energy Council (SEC), insisted the draft standard was not sufficiently thorough in addressing safety concerns. At the time, the SEC was urging a “No” vote on the draft, noting the requirements are out of step with the risk posed and will add significant expense without significant benefit.
The attempt to define the standard which would simultaneously protect consumers and allow for an unobstructed operation of the industry has proven particularly trying. In a previous attempt to define the standard, the industry was faced with a draft which would have put an effective ban on the installation of lithium-ion battery storage systems inside homes and garages, labelling them a fire risk.
Following an industry outcry over excessive fire safety measures, including a requirement for storage systems to be installed in separate kiosks or bunkers, the draft was scrapped two years ago. While many have argued that such measures could only add costs and make installation of home battery systems more complicated, fears remain that the new standard might not be that much different from the one flagged in 2017.
One of the main concerns still relates to restricted locations for home batteries with regard to fire hazards. For instance, the standard states that storage systems must not be installed on any walls connected to habitable rooms without a surface or barrier in-between made of non-combustible material, such as concrete.
While the question remains whether such requirements are necessary for batteries made by renowned manufacturers, which go through extensive international standard tests before reaching the market, installation standard with homeowner safety in mind is a must. But, it is yet to be seen how the new standard will reflect on the market and whether calls for amendments will follow.
“The work on battery storage standards in Australia will continue, with this being a new standard it is expected there will be future refinement as the industry evolves”, said Chidgey.