Jul 18 2019

Distributed energy resources: Setting the standard

A genuine need exists to fairly and efficiently allocate the costs of small distributed energy resources (DER) across distribution network users. Whilst cost allocation can potentially provide incentives for more efficient investments, it will not alone address the requirements for the future of DER.

A recent Energy Insider article looked at the work ahead for the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) in addressing generation access and transmission pricing.[i] This was juxtaposed with the problems distribution networks were facing on their system, where a larger number of smaller household generators are requiring access.

Just as grid scale generation plays an important role in helping the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and network businesses to keep the lights on, they must also have the technical capability to control their voltage and frequency, and the ability to stay connected even when there is a major disturbance to the power system.[ii]

Just as there is a large number of new generators like wind and solar farms set to connect to the grid in coming years, there is also an increasing number of small and household DER installations connecting to the distribution networks. AEMO recently published new rules for setting the required technical standards for new generators to connect to the power system. But these are large and bespoke grid scale entrants, each negotiating their connection agreement.

So who provides the standards for what are the largely ‘drop in’ manufactured DER purchased by households and small business?

Setting the standard

Standards Australia is the country’s leading independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit standards organisation. They have a unique role in the development and adoption of internationally aligned standards in Australia and give national representation on international committees. They are representatives of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).[iii]

With the electricity system in the midst of a transformation there is now an increased importance of standards to keep up with rapid technological change, as technology and innovation disrupt traditional models. The future grid will have additional roles and greater customer technology, and for network operators, distributed resources and digitalisation create alternatives to building more network infrastructure[iv].

“Developments in electrical storage, new types of generation, and changes in consumer preferences are pushing the electricity sector to innovate,” former CEO of Standards Australia, Dr Bronwyn Evans said.

Standards provide a framework for building the governance to attract investment and increased commercialisation, they set the ‘game rules’ for markets looking to develop, adopt and grow emerging technologies.

Standards Australia has worked with CSIRO Futures and Hydrogen Mobility Australia to understand how standards could assist the development of the hydrogen industry in Australia. It has also produced the Roadmap for Standards and Grid Cyber Security, amongst other standards, such as energy efficiency.

However standards are not only important for a sector, their impact has a flow-on effect to entire communities. Standards help design, build and maintain public assets to achieve value for money, sustainability, performance and safety for both the industry and community.

Industry representatives

One of Standards Australia’s key areas of sector focus is electrotechnology and energy. These standards cover, at a small DER level, requirements such as the wiring rules and emerging requirements such as standards for domestic battery systems. Last week the organisation announced that it is working with industry (through relevant technical committees), government and the broader community to develop a national draft standard for the installation of battery storage devices - the Electrical Installations: Safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment is now progressing to ballot stage.

To facilitate the development of standards, Standards Australia organises committees and working groups of relevant expertise, often including manufacturers, regulators, installers and end users.  However it seeks to obtain the most representative of participants, and therefore draws its nominations to committee and working group representation from peak bodies, such as the Australian Energy Council (AEC) or Energy Networks Australia, to ensure that the representation reflects an industry view, and not just that of a single stakeholder.

The AEC coordinates the nominations for representatives to around 18 separate Standards Australia Committees (Table 1) and provides the forum for industry views to be developed.

Nominations are generally sought from member businesses and are selected from those with the technical and other expertise required, though sometimes AEC staff members are also nominated. The AEC has a standing Technology Committee and one of its functions performs this role. Unlike other member committees or working groups convened under the AEC, the Technology Committee is open to Associate Members of the AEC, which include manufacturing and consulting firms, amongst others. Some of these Associate Members also represent the AEC on various Standards Australia Committees.

Table 1: The Standards Australia Committees that the AEC is represented


Natural Gas Quality Specifications


Electricity Metering Equipment


Electricity Metering Equipment


Electricity Metering Equipment


Renewable Energy Power Supply Systems and Equipment


Roadmap for Standards and the future of Distributed electricity


Electrical Energy Networks, Construction and Operation


Remote demand management of electrical products


Smart Grids


Decentralised electrical energy and grid integration of renewable energy systems


Management of Network Assets in Power Systems


Energy Auditing




Coal and Coke


Occupational Health & Safety Management


Standards under review

Reflecting the growth in DER, draft Australian Standards dealing with the Remote Demand Management of Electrical Products are currently out for consultation, and open for comment to 6 August. This draft covers Direct Connection to the Distribution Network for demand response capable devices. Similarly there is currently review of inverter standards, another issue that the widespread installation of household DER, mostly solar, has driven to the fore. This proposal addresses the voltage ‘ride through’ capabilities needed to address voltage issues on the distribution network. Of course, not only do these standards affect the technical requirements of DER type installations, they may also impact customer value, so there are a broad range of issues to consider.

The AEC is also working closely with the Competitive Industry Metering Group in the development of Standards for Electricity Metering Equipment, which are currently under review and expected to change in those states with competitive metering. These changes, in particular to remote switching being capable of operating within five seconds of the previous operation, will bring a higher standard of safety to metering operations in states outside of Victoria, and make them comparable with existing Victorian operating standards.

If you are interested in knowing more about the AEC’s involvement with Australian Standards please contact David Markham, david.markham@energycouncil.com.au

[i] Australian Energy Week, AEMC Chairman’s address, 12 June 2019

[ii] https://www.aemc.gov.au/news-centre/media-releases/new-technical-standards-generators-help-keep-lights-lowest-cost

[iii] https://www.standards.org.au/about/what-we-do

[iv] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Electricity_2017.pdf

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