For Installers, Renewables, Solar, Storage

Accreditation update: New training for on-grid battery systems

Storage is gaining in popularity and installers must be properly qualified to take part in this busy market, writes Clean Energy Council general manager of industry integrity Sandy Atkins.

The current accreditation scheme for solar installers can really be traced back more than 25 years to the annual meetings of ATRAA (Appropriate Technology Retailers of Australia).

At the 1991 ATRAA meeting in Goulburn, NSW, concerns were raised within the solar industry that stand-alone systems were being sold with the promise of delivering far more energy than they were able to deliver.

The next year at the organisation’s Murwillumbah meeting, an issue was raised about a situation where a person was electrocuted by their stand-alone power system. At that meeting a decision was made to develop a specific training course in an effort to prevent such accidents occurring again and to ensure the community had confidence in the industry.

The objective was to develop an industry accreditation scheme where people must complete appropriate training in order to gain accreditation, helping to raise the bar across the entire sector. This developed over time and through different organisations to what is now the accreditation scheme administered by the Clean Energy Council.

Nationwide approach

The Clean Energy Council now requires people who want to be accredited to complete nationally-accredited training units. By using a national model, training organisations around the country are able to deliver the training and make it more accessible than just having one or two speciality providers.

So what does all this mean for on-grid battery installations?

The Clean Energy Council has been actively building a framework to ensure on-grid battery installations are done safely. At the end of 2012 we introduced a requirement, through the installation guidelines, that people who want to install batteries as part of a grid-connected system must complete additional training beyond what is required for grid-connect accreditation. The reason for this is that batteries pose a set of risks that are different to the risks associated with solar power systems, beyond what installers experience in a standard grid-connect PV system.

This was not a decision the Clean Energy Council made on its own. Five years ago we restructured the governance process within the accreditation section and introduced an installer reference group. This reference group includes installers from all over the country, who meet once a month to discuss a diverse range of issues relating to accreditation.

New training units finalised

For a number of years we have been using draft national training units as the requirement for obtaining your battery storage endorsement as part of your CEC grid-connect accreditation.

After a lot of hard work, the new battery storage training units have been endorsed and added to the Electroctechnology Training Package.

The Clean Energy Council represents the solar and storage industry by having a seat on the Australian Industry Standards’ Electrotechnology Industry Reference Committee, as part of the Australian Vocational Education and Training system. This is the group responsible for driving the process of training package development.

These units will be required to add the “storage” endorsement onto your current grid-connect accreditation. As it will take registered training organisations a few months to have these new training units added to their scope, we are implementing a transition period to allow people to install these systems.

There are currently two options available to work on grid-connected systems with battery storage:

Option 1: Hold grid-connect accreditation with battery storage endorsement. Currently, to apply for the storage endorsement you must complete the additional draft training modules on grid-connected battery storage design and installation.

From January we will no longer accept training completed to the draft units. Only training completed by a registered training organisation with the endorsed training on scope will be accepted. We will ensure a list of those training providers is available online.

Option 2: Hold grid-connect accreditation and stand-alone power systems accreditation. At present, an installer who holds both grid-connect and stand-alone power systems accreditation can sign off on the installation of grid-connected systems with battery storage.

From January 2019, all people holding both grid-connect and stand-alone accreditation will need to complete the battery storage training to continue installing grid-connected systems with battery storage. We envisage that this will allow registered training organisations enough time to develop a short bridging course that will take in to account the training that has already been completed.

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