Over the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2188, which is designed to streamline the permitting process for small rooftop solar systems. The new law seeks to give California’s Million Solar Roofs target a boost by establishing a state wide “modernized and standardized permitting process.” The new law amends Section 714 of the California Civil Code and Section 65850.5 of the California Government Code to provide for the following:

  • On or before September 30, 2015, every city and county is required to adopt an ordinances that “creates an expedited, streamlined permitting process for small residential rooftop solar energy systems.” Cal. Gov. Code § 65850.5(g)(1).
  • In connection with this process, every city and county must adopt “a checklist of all requirements with which small rooftop solar energy systems shall comply to be eligible for expedited review.” Id.
  • If the city or county determines that an application satisfies the information requirements of the checklist, then the application is deemed complete. Id.
  • Once the city or county confirms that an application is complete and meets the requirements of the checklist and the ordinance, the city or county must approve the application and issue all required permits. Id.
  • If a city or county deems an application incomplete, it must notify the applicant of any deficiencies. Id.
  • Every city and county must publish the checklist and required permitting documentation on the internet and allow for electronic submittal of applications and documentation, as well as electronic signatures. Cal. Gov. Code § 65850.5(g)(2).
  • For small residential rooftop systems (10 kW or less), “only one inspection shall be required, which shall be done in a timely manner and may include a consolidated inspection,” except a separate fire safety inspection may be allowed under certain circumstances.

These reforms are designed to eliminate inefficiencies in the permitting process and drive down soft costs of solar installations. Time will tell whether these soft cost savings will be realized and – if so – whether the savings will be passed on to solar customers.