This post follows the release of the first statewide assessment of AB 2188 in the form of a AB 2188 Implementation Report. This assessment provides a snap shot in time of AB 2188 implementation across the state of California based on an assessment of confirmed ordinance and process adoption.
The Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC) developed this report in support of the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) under California’s Rooftop Solar Challenge program, called the Golden State Solar Impact program. This program supported the goals of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Program and the SunShot Initiative to make solar electricity cost competitive without subsidies by the end of the decade by seeking to address and lower system costs for photovoltaics (PV). EPIC and CSE worked to encourage market transformation through expanding financing options for residential and commercial customers, streamlining permitting processes, and standardizing net metering and interconnection standards across investor-owned and municipally owned utilities in the region under this program. Previous work on AB 2188 included drafting of the AB 2188: Implementation of the Solar Rights Act at the Local Level document and AB 2188 Model Ordinance to implement the amendment to the Solar Rights Act (SRA) and the Governor’s California Solar Permitting Guidebook (Spring 2015 Second Edition). The assessment includes review of ordinance adoption, compliance with minimum statutory requirements under the SRA, and adopted permit application processes.
AB 2188 amended the SRA to update requirements under Civil Code Section 714 and require each local jurisdiction in California to pass an ordinance streamlining permitting by September 30, 2015 for energy systems no larger than 10 kW AC nameplate photovoltaic (PV) or 30 kW thermal under Government Code Section 658505.5. Key findings and recommendations from the assessment of AB 2188 implementation include:
- Documented adoption of AB 2188 ordinances in approximately 386 jurisdictions (cities and counties);
- In terms of implementation, there is no discernable distinction in adoption based on jurisdiction size. Both the smallest and the largest jurisdictions adopted AB 2188 ordinances and streamlined processes;
- All adopted ordinances authorize administrative, nondiscretionary solar energy system review processes;
- Where ordinances are adopted, authorization of electronic submission and electronic signatures is widespread but not fully implemented in all jurisdictions despite the statutory mandate to allow electronic submission;
- Approximately 18 jurisdictions do not authorize electronic submittal and therefore do not accept electronic signatures in lieu of wet signatures;
- In 12 jurisdictions, electronic submittal is authorized but electronic signatures are not accepted;
- Of the jurisdictions that do not allow electronic submission, approximately 10 jurisdictions expressly state the reason for not allowing electronic signatures.
- In terms of document access:
- Approximately 225 jurisdictions authorize placing documents on their website and actually place documents on their website;
- Approximately 21 jurisdictions authorize placing documents on their website but do not actually place documents on their website;
- Approximately 19 jurisdictions place documents on their website but the assessment was either unable to document the existence of an ordinance or the ordinance did not authorize placing documents on a website;
- Approximately 373 jurisdictions authorize streamlining for solar thermal systems, but only approximately 58 jurisdictions provide streamlined documents and processes for solar thermal energy systems;
- Approximately 365 jurisdictions used, modified, or took language from the model ordinance previously developed under the Golden State Solar Impact project; and
- A trend exists to include language in adopted ordinances that expressly shift the health and safety liability with regards to structural requirements from jurisdictions to the applicants by creating a pre-application submission duty on the applicant (See Section 15).
General recommendations can be made from these findings to increase adoption and implement streamlined processes. These include:
- Additional outreach to facilitate ordinance adoption;
- Support to identify and amend ordinances that fail to define system eligibility for streamlining;
- Support to implement streamlined checklists and other documents;
- Support to update general solar energy system permit processes and documents to meet streamlining requirements for small residential rooftop solar energy systems;
- Support to implement electronic submission requirement;
- Support to ensure that documents are available on a publicly accessible website;
- Review of jurisdiction specific electrical and structural requirements to assess substantial conformance to the Guidebook;
- Clarification of guidance around application of Civil Code Section 714 to jurisdictions and associations;
- Support to implement solar thermal streamlining processes; and
- Support to facilitate consolidation of fire and building inspections.
The full report can be accessed here.