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Published on June 27th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales


AB 2188 Would Make California’s Solar More Affordable

June 27th, 2014 by  

Originally Published in the ECOreport

Walker Wright, Director of Government Affairs at Sunrun

Walker Wright, Director of Government Affairs at Sunrun

A very promising solar bill is making its way through the California Legislature. AB 2188 calls for a streamlining of the permitting process, and Sunrun has issued a report stating it could deliver an additional $5 billion into the state’s coffers. This bill has already been passed by the Assembly (58-8) and is now before the senate. I recently had an opportunity to ask Walker Wright, Director of Government Affairs at Sunrun, how AB 2188 would make California’s solar more affordable.

Question: Tell me a little about the idea that streamlining the solar permitting process can deliver billions in additional growth to California’s economy.

WW: Solar equipment costs have fallen dramatically over the last decade, but non-hardware costs (soft costs) are the last frontier to continued price declines. Already, the soft costs involved with solar installations (the permitting, customer acquisition, labor, etc.) are 50-70% of the total installation cost. Permitting alone can be 5-20% of the total cost, depending on location and size of the system.

Streamlining the permitting process across municipalities will reduce those costs, making solar available for even more homeowners of all income levels. More rapid solar adoption through streamlined permitting will grow the California economy and create clean economy jobs.

Image Courtesy Sunrun

What kind of permit streamlining is AB 2188 calling for?

WW: AB 2188 focuses on streamlining the process for standard systems under 10 kW. To offer a comparison, in Germany these types of systems no permitting at all.

Under AB 2188, municipalities would provide a checklist for the specifications of the system. The installers would fill this out, similar to a checklist at the doctor’s office. (If you don’t check off any health issues, then you’re good to have a standard appointment. If you do, then more questions are asked.)

If everything fits the checklist, then the permit is given. If anything about the system doesn’t fit the standard design, then additional work is required to grant the permit. Following installation, a single inspection will happen within a determined amount of days of the request to ensure that the specifications on the checklist carried through to system construction.

Question: Tell me a little about the online component. How much of the process will homeowners be able to do online?   

WW: AB 2188 will help usher rooftop solar permitting into the modern age by requiring municipalities to publish the checklist and permitting documentation on its web site. Moreover, this process will authorize electronic signatures on all forms, applications and other documentation (as many municipalities already have) instead of only wet signatures.

This provides advance visibility into the requirements from a particular jurisdiction to prevent a trial-and-error permitting process. In many cities today, an installer could end up waiting all day at a permitting office with paper records, only to turn around and repeat the exercise if something needs revising. This is wasted time and money, and it carries through to installation costs. The online component expedites this approval flow.

Q: AB 2188 calls for some very tight timelines – inspections within 5 days of the request, an application review within 24 hours – How do you know that the various municipalities can do this?  

WW: The framework on which AB 2188 was based is already in practice in a few municipalities in the state, including San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles. There have been no issues meeting the timelines. The result is faster and smoother installations for the installer and the homeowner.

Q: There does not appear to have been much opposition. Was everyone in the Assembly pretty much behind the bill? Do you expect that kind of reception in the senate?  

WW: The bill passed with broad support in the Assembly. We hope the Senate will also see the immense value in this bill when it moves into Committee at the end of this month.

Q: Assuming it passes the Senate as well, when do you expect to see the final vote?  

WW: We are hopeful that it will pass swiftly and be signed by the Governor in September so California can continue to lead the way on solar cost reduction.

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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • Winston

    AB 2188 is a huge mistake. Companies like SunRun are growing so fast that their solar installations are becoming sloppy and unsafe. This bill would make their installs even faster and more unsafe. This bill is not good for the consumer. Further, quite a few cities already waive the fee, or charge reduced fees, for solar permits. So the argument that this would make solar cheaper is false. Tell these companies to stop gouging customers if you want solar to be cheaper.

  • Jeff Spies

    This may be the cart before the horse as the permitting “checklist” has not been developed. We really need to see this checklist before we get too excited. Per CalFire this morning, the list is being worked on by the Governors office. Hope they require flashing in the checklist. I also hope that other important consumer safeguards are included like max distance between mounts and proper wire management systems

  • spec9

    If you simplify the permitting process, this could cause a huge breakthrough in DIYers getting the confidence to install their own systems. I’ve installed two systems myself . . . this is not rocket science folks.

    • To many the permitting issuance is more difficult, more time consuming and more frustrating than the installation! Blue Skies, That Solar Guy

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