The energy-storage industry is now at a stage where stakeholders need to develop a coordinated vision for safety codes, standards and regulations (CSRs). Although standards in the solar industry can provide a guide, the energy-storage industry needs to collaborate to ensure safe and reliable products.
The deployment of energy-storage systems has necessitated the development and implementation of safety standards to ensure safe and reliable operations. Not only do these standards have obvious effects on manufacturers, owners and operators, but they also have policy and legal implications that are critically important to regulators.
Energy storage is quickly becoming an integral part of the electric grid. However, the development of the technology has outpaced the development of applicable safety CSRs.
While CSRs must be standardized to be effective, creating such standardization is hindered by the variety of chemistries, components, and deployment environments for energy-storage systems currently in use or under development.
Updates to existing or new CSRs are needed to uniformly develop best practices for performance, reliability and safety. New or updated CSRs must be clearly articulated and universally implemented in order to avoid confusion among market participants up and down the value chain. Coordination across federal, state and local levels is required to implement prudent installation and operation standards.
Energy storage-specific CSRs may be developed from existing CSRs that apply to the solar industry. The solar industry does have clearly developed CSRs for other purposes that can provide a guide to the energy storage industry.
However, it is imperative that, as energy storage CSRs are developed and adopted, the new regulations do not become a patchwork of standards among different agencies exercising their specific authorities. The CSRs must be developed by all participating stakeholders from all parts of the industry.
Legally enforceable CSRs often originate as voluntary, model CSRs that are then adopted by governing authorities. Typically, federal, state and local governments and others adopt these models, rather than drafting them from scratch, and then amend them as needed. For example, the federal government can demand compliance with certain CSRs for installations at buildings owned or leased by federal agencies.
Similarly, equipment and installations owned or operated by a utility are covered by the utility’s rules and standards. Codes or standards adopted by utilities, insurance companies, or other corporate or governmental entities through tariffs, policies, specifications or contracts may receive the full force and effect of the law.
Finally, manufacturers of system components would be responsible for documenting component compliance. Similarly, the installers would be responsible for installation and builders, contractors and engineers would be responsible for their work.
We recommend the development and implementation of CSRs to facilitate the deployment of energy-storage systems and ensure their safe and reliable installation and operation.
Kyle E. Wamstad is an associate in Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP’s Atlanta office. He represents power-sector, natural gas-sector, and renewable energy-sector clients in various transactional and regulatory matters.
Lead image: Compliance. Credit: Shutterstock.