Due to years of work by Sierra Club volunteers, two bills are now in the state legislature that offer a chance to lower the upfront costs of installing a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system–to reduce electricity bills while also reducing our carbon footprint, by shifting away from energy generated by fossil fuels.
Among the factors that bump up this cost are the permitting and inspection fees charged by local governments. These fees and processes vary widely from city to city in California and can create a lot of red tape and unnecessary delay for people wanting to go solar.
Starting in June 2005, members of the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta Chapter began a study to compare solar-permit fees charged by cities in the greater Silicon Valley region. The volunteers found and publicized major disparities in the fees charged by different cities, which then led to actions by 24 cities in Silicon Valley to significantly reduce their fees, removing a small but important barrier to solar PV installation.
Since then the Sierra Club has surveyed the cost of solar permitting fees for both residential and commercial solar PV systems up and down the state of California. Our surveys have found that these fees vary widely for no apparent reason, increasing processing costs for Californians who wish to go solar. (For details on these studies, see http://lomaprietaglobalwarming.sierraclub.org/solar.php.)
Building on our studies, two legislators have introduced bills this year dealing with solar-permit fees charged by local governments. SB 1222 by Sen. Mark Leno (San Francisco) would prohibit cities and counties from charging more than a reasonable amount, capped at specific dollar amount, for solar-PV permit fees for both residential and commercial systems. AB 1801 by Assemblymember Nora Campos (San Jose) would require solar-permit fees to be computed based on actual costs associated with the permit and specifically prohibit fees from being computed based on the value or cost of the PV system.
Sierra Club California supports both SB 1222 and AB 1801. Both bills would remove unreasonable costs for Californians that are either directly related to an excessive fee or caused indirectly by a lengthy and unnecessarily burdensome permitting process. .
Sierra Club California has a strong interest in reducing the cost of solar permitting fees charged by local governments. Excessive fees and unnecessary burdensome permitting processes are among the top reasons solar PV systems have not achieved price parity with more polluting grid electricity. California’s rooftop-solar revolution is integral to the state energy and environmental goals and to the state economy. Permitting reform will provide an even greater economic boost and job growth to the existing solar market.
Jim Metropulos, senior advocate, Sierra Club California
from the Sierra Club California web site