Sierra Club wins legislation limiting solar permit fees

California Gov. Jerry Brown is a big fan of rooftop solar, known in the industry as “distributed generation.”

This week, he signed a SB 1222 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), which caps the excessive permit fees that local governments charge for residential and commercial solar systems.

For years, the Sierra Club has been shining a light on the wide disparities in the fees that California cities charge for solar installations on homes as well as buildings like schools, churches and retail stores. A 2010 survey found that Brisbane charged $13,510 for a 131-kilowatt commercial system, while Los Gatos charged $796 and Los Altos Hills just $48 for a solar system of the same size.

A survey of residential fees found that the city of Bell – yes, that Bell – charged a whopping $1,166 for a 3 kw system; the city of Woodside charged just $30.

“Installation cost remains one barrier to wider solar energy systems use,” said Jim Metropulos, senior advocate with Sierra Club California. “SB 1222 standardizes permitting fees statewide and removes unreasonable costs for Californians that want to invest in rooftop solar energy systems.”




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  • Dana:

    Thanks for covering this news on the new Bill Gov. Brown signed into law this past week to cap PV permit fees to fair levels statewide!

    There are many cities in California that charge outrageously high permit fees for commercial solar installations (sometimes over 10 times more than necessary to recover costs…many of the jurisdictions have lowered fees over the years when the Sierra Club activists like myself politely requested that these high fees be reviewed and lowered to fair levels…we have had an impressive response from most cities to do the right thing to enact fair or even low permit fees for solar power, but the state law will bat cleanup now and require fees be set to reasonable rates. For interested persons here is the scoop of these 2 new laws that will take effective Jan. 1, 2013:

    SB 1222 (Leno): Caps PV permit fees for rooftop systems. Prohibits cities and counties from charging more than a reasonable dollar amount with specific caps. Residential PV permit fees are capped at $500 for up to 15kW sizes and commercial fees are capped at $1,000 for sizes up to 50 kW. (status: signed into law by Gov. Brown on Sept. 27, 2012) text of this bill:

    AB 1801 (Campos): Requires solar permit fees to be computed based on actual jurisdictional costs and specifically prohibits fees from being computed based on PV system valuations. This will impact solar permit fees for all sizes and types of solar energy systems. (status: signed into law by Gov. Brown in Sept. 2012) Text of this bill:

  • g

    The more imporant question is why in the hell are they getting a single dime….