A standard is a repeatable, harmonised, agreed and documented way of doing something. Standards contain technical specifications or other precise criteria designed to be used consistently as a rule, guideline, or definition. They help to make life simpler and increase the reliability and the effectiveness of many of the goods and services we use.
Standards result from collective work by experts in a field and provide a consensus at the time when the standards are developed. As standards in the international arena are established on a consensus and broad stakeholder basis, they represent what can be agreed upon. A published standard is therefore the harmonised synthesis of what the group is prepared to publish. In terms of international and regional standardisation, this is even more important than at the national level: the importance of consensus is critical because of large and diverse stakeholder groups and needs. Ultimately this may mean that a standard might lack some of the clarity, detail or specific criteria certain stakeholder groups or individuals would have preferred.
Standards do not necessarily have to be developed by standardisation bodies, such as ISO or the IEC. Any organization can establish standards for internal or external use. However, to be truly called a standard, the requirements stated above must be met.
Adherence to standards is voluntary, unless they are a requirement of legislation or regulation, or are incorporated as part of a formal contract. To increase global tradability and compatibility of products and services, it is important that, whenever possible, standards are harmonized globally to ensure they are truly trans-boundary.
Standards are an important aspect of ensuring that products and services are delivered in a harmonised and consistent way, while providing consumers and users with the confidence that whatever products and services they are using deliver to specification. Many of the standards identified provide this support by ensuring that, for example: The characteristics of a particular component are measured, calculated or evaluated in a consistent way – typically these may be the determination of chemical and physical properties.
The ability exists to demonstrate the performance of the product, such as a solar photovoltaic panel or a wind turbine, against an established measurement protocol or criteria.
Sampling and sample reduction is carried out in the same repeatable manner, e.g. the sampling of solid biofuels, which have historically had wide variance in quality, even though the products were manufactured to apparently specific tolerances.
However, other standards are used to allow the facilitation of trade, or compliance with regulations and legislation, by ensuring that declarations or certificates provided for a product or service are communicated and accepted as being to a consistent and harmonised quality or specification.
Over the last two years the Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABC) has been calling for stronger integration of reliability standards and qualifications for PV modules into legislation based on the IEC standards. This call is aimed at ensuring that quality PV products are installed in the USA with a minimum defined standard.
In addition to the above, there are standards that provide a consistent and harmonised approach to management systems, environmental management, energy management, conformity assessment and certification.
While third-party independent certification or conformity assessment cannot be required within product and service standards, many standards are used to demonstrate compliance within certification schemes.
As stated in the introduction to this report, this approach to regulation and legislation is being increasingly used by governments looking for consistency when delivering against policies and in particular when these policies are supporting fiscal incentives, such as Feed-in Tariffs, Renewable Obligations Certificates, Green Certificates, Renewable Portfolio Standards, etc.Read more