AB 2188 - California Law to Mandate Streamlined Solar Permitting

California has now become the first state in the country to mandate a standardized procedure for solar permitting. Every city and county in the state will soon be required to adopt a simplified procedure for residential rooftop solar panel systems. A streamlined permitting process greatly benefits California homeowners with shorter wait times between contract signing, installation, inspection, and saving on their first month’s electricity bill.

On September 21st, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law bill AB 2188, which will take effect January 1st, 2015 and local ordinances must be passed by September 30th of 2015. Permitting must conform to the most updated version of Office of Planning and Research’s Solar Permitting Guidebook, key elements include:

  • An efficient and timely permitting process, best practices dictate the permitting review process take less than 24 hours and inspections will be scheduled within 24 hours of request.
  • Cities and counties are required to post permitting requirements and documents online. They must also accept permit applications by internet, email, or fax and accept electronic signatures.
  • Only one inspection shall be required for those eligible for expedited review.
  • Reduces both the limits a Homeowner Association (HOA) can apply to a rooftop installation and if applicable, the number of days an applicant must wait for a written denial of a plan.

Few cities, like San Jose and San Francisco, which already meet and exceed the requirements of AB 2188, will only need to make minor changes to their existing permitting processes. The most drastic change will concern cities with intentionally slow process times and high denial rates, but the bill is primarily meant for the majority of California cities and counties which do not have a formal system set in place yet. By improving the efficiency of the permitting process across California, AB 2188 will allow homeowners to save on their first monthly electricity bills much sooner after contract signing. It will also help lower the cost of solar installations in general, making them much more accessible to homeowners.