Policy

Q&A for AB 2188 (Muratsuchi) –

Streamlined Permitting for Residential Rooftop Solar

What Does AB 2188 (Muratsuchi) Do?

AB 2188 seeks to establish a streamlined permitting and inspection procedure for small residential rooftop solar energy systems statewide. The goal of AB 2188 is to put in place best practices for permitting small scale residential rooftop solar systems so as to enable the solar industry to cut costs while also shaving the amount of time and resources building departments put into reviewing solar permit applications.   

What kind of solar system does AB 2188 apply to?

AB 2188 applies to a solar energy system that is:

  • 10kW or smaller (30 kW thermal)
  • Single or duplex residence
  • Roof mounted and does not exceed maximum allowable roof height for building
  • Meets all relevant health and safety codes 

Does AB 2188 require cities and counties to process permits and inspections in specific timelines?

No. AB 2188 no longer contains specific timelines for processing or scheduling inspections. Instead, it gives cities and counties flexibility to meet the requirements of the bill. On the permitting side, the goal of AB 2188 is simply to have cities and counties deem a permit approved upon receipt and review of a completed and error-free application. Secondly, AB 2188 directs cities and counties to apply best practices in scheduling inspections.  Follow up inspections are not subject to any timeline as well. 

Does AB 2188 restrict the ability for fire departments to review and inspect solar systems?

No. AB 2188 was recently amended to clarify that if a fire department does not have an active MOU with their local city or county, they can maintain their ability to perform a separate permit review or inspection. That said, it is the intent of the bill’s sponsors that fire departments throughout the state continue to work with cities and counties as well as the solar industry to streamline this process and adopt MOUs with building departments wherever possible.

Would AB 2188 Force Jurisdictions to Build a New Website/Online Permitting Portal?

No. AB 2188 simply requires that a jurisdiction make electronic communication tools available to permit seekers. These tools include email, fax or the web. AB 2188 would ask that jurisdictions post their streamlined permit eligibility requirements on their website so that permit seekers don’t have to drive down to the permit office just to find out what’s required to submit a permit application. AB 2188 mandates that cities and counties accept electronic signatures, in lieu of a wet signature, but allows cities and counties to opt out of this mandate if they do not have the technical capabilities to accept electronic signatures.

Does AB 2188 Impact Other Businesses Seeking Permits?

Yes. But in a good way! Streamlining and expediting the vast majority of solar permits would provide net benefits to both local jurisdictions as well as other permit seekers. In many jurisdictions throughout the state, small-scale residential solar permits are the single largest category of permit applicants and are, in many cases, clogging up the system for other permit seekers. The County of San Diego, for example, reports processing 500 solar permits a month. By adopting a streamlined approach, the permitting entity can save precious time and resources by freeing up staff time otherwise focused on what are essentially “cookie cutter” installations. Jurisdictions that have embraced expedited permitting report that their expedited permitting program has cut the amount of time it takes to review solar permits by 50%, essentially freeing up more time to spend with the truly complicated applications. Furthermore, nothing in AB 2188 would prevent a jurisdiction from extending their streamlined permit procedure to other technologies as well. 

What Problem Does AB 2188 Solve?

The problem AB 2188 attempts to solve is the patchwork of permitting procedures for small rooftop solar energy systems that are largely of the same design, i.e. “cookie cutter”.  The current state of permitting, with more than 500 variations of the same process, is an impediment to the widespread deployment of solar and adds unnecessary costs for an industry that is trying to reduce costs and achieve parity with fossil fuel technologies.  According to a recent Lawrence Berkeley Labs study, the time delays and procedural variations associated with the issuance of building permits keeps the installed price of going solar higher than it should be (estimates range from $1,500-$3,500 per solar system).  These higher prices frustrate the ability of installers to achieve economies of scale through a streamlined process and presents solar from becoming more affordable.  For many jurisdictions, it can take 4-6 weeks to permit a solar system that takes one day to install.

How Does AB 2188 Seek to Solve This Problem?

AB 2188 updates the Solar Rights Act of 1978 by providing greater clarity to what it means to “administratively review” solar permits for the vast majority of “cookie cutter” solar energy systems. The bill seeks to establish an expedited permit for small rooftop solar energy systems installed on a single family or duplex home that meet all relevant health and safety code requirements.  The bill seeks to limit the wait time for inspections and would allow permit seekers to utilize electronic forms of communication (internet, email, fax, etc.) to cost-effectively communicate with building departments. By implementing a streamlined permitting process for stock installation of small rooftop solar systems, California can improve the affordability and expedite deployment of these systems.  This in turn will help to realize many benefits to the state, including job creation, energy savings, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and achieving our climate goals.

Is there an urgency to AB 2188?

Yes. Unlike other permitted projects (i.e. a roof, HVAC, etc.), rooftop solar energy systems are not usable until the local permit is received. In other words, a solar electric system could be installed for weeks before the inspection is scheduled and the permit granted. Until that time the utility cannot schedule an interconnection inspection and actually “turn on” the system. This uncertainty and delay ultimately increases the cost for all solar energy systems.  Furthermore, with the elimination of incentives for residential solar systems, the impending decline of the federal Investment Tax Credit, there is an urgent need to lower the cost of going solar to make it accessible for more consumers. Cutting soft costs associated with permitting is an important piece of the cost-reduction puzzle. 

Aren’t Some Cities and Counties Already Doing This?

Yes! Several jurisdictions throughout California, such as Los Angeles, Windsor, San Francisco, Walnut Creek and San Diego County, to name a few, have developed procedures to issue permits electronically and in an expedited manner. These programs represent just some of the resources available to jurisdictions seeking insight into how to accomplish this goal.

Does AB 2188 Violate “Home Rule?”

No. First of all, AB 2188 seeks to help cities and counties save money and provide better customer service to all their regulated businesses by clearing up the backlog created by the massive influx of residential solar permit applications. Secondly, AB 2188 leaves it up to each city and county to develop their own expedited permitting program. Furthermore, California already spoke to the “home rule” issue when it passed the Solar Rights Act, which clarifies that “the implementation of consistent statewide standards to achieve the timely and cost-effective installation of solar energy systems is not a municipal affair…but is instead a matter of statewide concern.”

Would AB 2188 Cost Jurisdictions More Money?

No. First, as stated above, the experience of jurisdictions that have adopted an expedited permit process in California is that this saves the city or county money and staff time. So it is a benefit for both parties. In addition, many resources and models already exist to guide jurisdictions new to this concept, including many developed under the Department of Energy SunShot program that seeks to specifically reduce the cost of permitting and inspection procedures nation-wide. Lastly, current law allows all jurisdictions to charge a permit fee to recover the costs associated with permitting solar systems.

How Would AB 2188 Maintain Consumer Protections?

Yes. AB 2188 does not change existing laws, codes, or regulations related to the health and safety of a solar installation. All solar projects, be they permitted in an expedited manner or not, must meet all applicable fire, structural, electrical, etc. codes. By creating an expedited permit process, complete with a simple checklist for the contractor to comply with, AB 2188 does not short-change public safety in any way. Furthermore, AB 2188 does not alter the field inspection process, nor does it curtail the inspector’s authority to require changes to the design.    

 

Net Energy Metering (NEM)

NEM Grandfathering
  • CPUC Proposed Decision on NEM Transition Period
  • CALSEIA Opening Comments on NEM Transition Period
  • CALSEIA Reply Comments on NEM Transition Period
  • CALSEIA Supplemental Reply Comments on NEM Transition Period
  • Letter from Solar Companies
  • Letter from Customer Generators
  • Letter from Agricultural Interests
  • Press Release on Delivery of Petition
NEM Aggregation
  • CPUC Ruling on PG&E NEM Aggregation Tariff
  • PG&E NEM Aggregation Tariff
  • CALSEIA Protest of SCE & SDG&E Proposed Tariffs
  •  SDG&E Supplemental Advice Letter
  • SCE Advice Letter
  • SCE Supplemental Advice Letter

NEM and Storage
  • CALSEIA & SEIA Joint Reply Comments
  • CPUC Request for Comments on Battery Safety

Rates

Residential Rate Structure
  • PG&E Revised 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposal
  • SCE Revised 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposal
  • SDG&E Revised 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposal
  • CALSEIA & Efficiency First Protest to IOU Initial 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposals
  • CPUC Staff Proposal for 2015-2018 Residential Rates
PG&E Commercial Rates
PG&E 2014 General Rate Case Application

SDG&E Commercial Rates
SDG&E Annual Rate Design Proposal for 2014
SCE Commercial Rates
  • SCE Annual Rate Design Proposal for 2014
  • CALSEIA Protest of SCE Rate Design Proposal for 2014

Solar Water Heating

  • CPUC Review of CSI-Thermal Program
  • CPUC 2012 Decision Increasing CSI-Thermal Incentive Levels
  • CALSEIA 2012 Petition to Modify CSI-Thermal Incentive Levels

Permitting

 

Storage

  • CALSEIA & SEIA Joint Reply Comments
  • CPUC Request for Comments on Battery Safety

New Solar Homes

 

Codes & Standards

 

CCA

 

Shared Solar

  • PG&E Community Solar Proposal
  • SCE Green Tariff Proposal
  • SB 43
  • SDG&E 2012 Share the Sun Proposal

Tax Credits & Exemptions

 

California Solar Statistics

 

HOA's

 

Misc.

 CALSEIA Comments on RPS Eligibility Guidebook

 

2014 CALSEIA Policy Work

Official CALSEIA Filings, Comments, Advice Letters, Decisions, advocacy letters, etc. available to members only. Click the header links to see all the documents. You must be logged into your members-only account first. 


Net Energy Metering (NEM)

NEM Grandfathering
  • CPUC Proposed Decision on NEM Transition Period
  • CALSEIA Opening Comments on NEM Transition Period
  • CALSEIA Reply Comments on NEM Transition Period
  • CALSEIA Supplemental Reply Comments on NEM Transition Period
  • Letter from Solar Companies
  • Letter from Customer Generators
  • Letter from Agricultural Interests
  • Press Release on Delivery of Petition
NEM Aggregation
  • CPUC Ruling on PG&E NEM Aggregation Tariff
  • PG&E NEM Aggregation Tariff
  • CALSEIA Protest of SCE & SDG&E Proposed Tariffs
  •  SDG&E Supplemental Advice Letter
  • SCE Advice Letter
  • SCE Supplemental Advice Letter

NEM and Storage
  • Final Decision
  • CALSEIA Reply Comments on Proposed Decision
  • CALSEIA Comments on Proposed Decision
  • Proposed Decision
  • CPUC Request for Comments on Battery Safety
  • CALSEIA Reply Comments on Storage and NEM
  • CALSEIA Comments on Storage and NEM
  • Assigned Commissioner's Ruling on Storage and NEM

Rates

Residential Rate Structure
  • PG&E Revised 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposal
  • SCE Revised 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposal
  • SDG&E Revised 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposal
  • CALSEIA & Efficiency First Protest to IOU Initial 2014 Residential Rate Change Proposals
  • CPUC Staff Proposal for 2015-2018 Residential Rates
PG&E Commercial Rates
PG&E 2014 General Rate Case Application

SDG&E Commercial Rates
SDG&E Annual Rate Design Proposal for 2014
SCE Commercial Rates
  • SCE Annual Rate Design Proposal for 2014
  • CALSEIA Protest of SCE Rate Design Proposal for 2014

Solar Water Heating

  • CPUC Review of CSI-Thermal Program
  • CPUC 2012 Decision Increasing CSI-Thermal Incentive Levels
  • CALSEIA 2012 Petition to Modify CSI-Thermal Incentive Levels

Permitting

 

Storage

  • CALSEIA & SEIA Joint Reply Comments
  • CPUC Request for Comments on Battery Safety

New Solar Homes

 

Codes & Standards

 

CCA

 

Shared Solar

  • PG&E Community Solar Proposal
  • SCE Green Tariff Proposal
  • SB 43
  • SDG&E 2012 Share the Sun Proposal

Tax Credits & Exemptions

 

California Solar Statistics

 

HOA's

 

Misc.

 CALSEIA Comments on RPS Eligibility Guidebook

 

Misc.

 CALSIEA Comments on RPS Eligibility Guidebook

 

 

Shared Solar

Ruling Establishing Phase 3

SCE Updated Enhanced Renewables Proposal

PG&E Community Solar Proposal

SCE Original Green Tariff Proposal

SB 43

SDG&E 2012 Share the Sun Proposal

 

 
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