California Enacts Bill To Extend Tax Protections For Rooftop Solar

By Betsy Lillian, Solar Industry Magazine

Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., has signed into law financial protections for consumer investments in rooftop solar.

The law, under A.B.1208, which was authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, extends a prohibition on cities and counties from taxing the energy generated by rooftop solar panels for use by homeowners and businesses, explains the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA).

Assemblymember Phil Ting

“We applaud Governor Newsom and Assemblymember Ting for protecting consumers’ right to generate their own energy from the sun without unfair taxes,” remarks Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of CALSSA, which also sponsored A.B.1208. “Reducing costs, eliminating red tape and encouraging consumers to go solar are all critical components of meeting California’s ambitious clean energy goals.”

Cities and counties, generally speaking, have the ability to tax utility services, such as electricity, as one potential source of local revenues, says CALSSA. Since 2013, the energy generated by rooftop solar panels has been explicitly exempt from what is called the “utility users tax,” or “UUT.” That pre-existing exemption was set to expire Dec. 31, 2019, but A.B.1208 has extended it another seven years.

“I’m proud to champion a bill that maintains California’s position as a leader in promoting renewable energy, which helps the effort to clean our air and fight climate change,” says Ting. “The governor’s signature keeps customer-owned clean energy affordable and will keep encouraging the use of greener power to reduce our carbon emissions.”

At a time when the state has set ambitious clean energy goals, A.B.1208 ensures that local governments do not create counter-productive disincentives to homeowners and businesses considering investments in clean energy, CALSSA points out. The law also provides consumers who have already invested in solar energy with the assurance that cities and counties will not tax their solar energy in the future.

“I’m thrilled to see California take this decisive step toward protecting a homeowner’s most basic clean energy right,” notes Dave Rosenfeld, executive director of Solar Rights Alliance, a statewide association of California solar users. “Just like growing your own carrots and avoiding sales taxes, if you put the sunlight that falls on your roof or property to your own use, you shouldn’t have to pay a tax either.”

CALSSA says the bill faced little controversy since it was introduced in May; it passed both the State Assembly and Senate with unanimous support.

Source: https://solarindustrymag.com/california-enacts-bill-to-extend-tax-protections-for-rooftop-solar

CALSSA implements consumer protection code

By Tim Sylvia, PV Magazine

The association has instituted three new rules to its code of ethics but remains unsatisfied, turning their sights now to setting a national standard.

In an ongoing effort to protect consumers, who are the necessary entity to the entire concept of a market, the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) has updated the group’s Code of Ethics with a detailed section on new consumer protection rules, rules to guide not just CALSSA members, but the businesses those members work with.

What’s more is that there’s nothing soft about these rules. They are mandatory in adherence, and while not directly stated, the mandatory nature implies expulsion from CALSSA if not adhered to. That is not known fact, however.

In fact, all of the updated rules directly address those associated businesses. All members must now make sure third-party customer lead generators follow the new consumer protection rules by closely examining the policies and procedures of said lead generators, as well as monitoring their work over time.

CALSSA will no longer allow companies to be members if they do not police the work of who they buy leads from or, of course, the work of their own in-house teams. New rules include clearly defined terms that MUST NOT be used in any consumer-facing advertisement such as “free solar” or any suggestion that the government has endorsed your products.

For door-to-door canvassing, members must now make sure the salespeople have a HIS registration per California law. This applies whether the canvassers are employed by the CALSSA member or by a third-party business working in conjunction with the member.

The last new rule is arguably the most directly sided towards the immediate protection of the customer:

If you utilize third-party financing such as PPAs, leases or PACE for any of your residential customers, or if you are the financing entity yourself, you must conduct a recorded confirmation call with all of your residential customers before construction begins to cover key terms of the contract.

For CALSSA, the ambition to provide security and peace of mind to customers extends beyond the reaches of California and, in recognition of this ambition, the association also announced that it will be working with SEIA to make sure these rules are adopted across the entire industry.

What these rules feel like are an attempt made by CALSSA to provide customers with ignorance protection. The term “ignorance protection” isn’t meant to be a shot at the intelligence of the consumer, more like a recognition that on the national level, solar energy is a niche topic for the average person to have any knowledge on.

The first rule addresses this particularly well, preventing companies from falsely advertising their services to groups that may not know to question the claims.

This is especially true when looking at the efforts being made across the country to bring solar energy to underprivileged and low-income communities. The biggest commonality among these communities is a lower education level compared to others. If the general education level is low, chances are that the residents, and again this is not to blame them at all, aren’t going to have a comprehensive grasp on the workings of the solar industry.

Source: https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2019/09/06/calssa-implements-consumer-protection-code/

Solar is coming to all new California homes. How many in Fresno already get power from sun?

By Tim Sheehan, The Fresno Bee

More than 1 million California homes are already soaking up sunshine with solar panels to generate electricity. Next year, that number will surge as new building standards take effect requiring all new homes permitted after Jan. 1 to have solar photovoltaic systems.

In Fresno, which already has the third-highest number of homes in California with rooftop solar panels, the number continues to grow even before the new California Energy Commission standards take full effect. Through the first six months of 2019, the city issued permits for more than 1,640 residential solar systems as additions or alterations to existing homes. That doesn’t count solar panels that home builders or developers are already offering as a feature on new homes.

As of June 30, more than 23,300 Fresno homes had solar systems in operation under the state’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program. That’s third behind only San Diego and Bakersfield among California cities, according to data from Go Solar California. The total electrical output capacity of Fresno’s residential solar panel systems amounted to almost 148,700 kilowatts of direct current (DC) power. That’s about 144,000 kilowatts of alternating current or AC electricity after it’s converted from DC.

Fresno also has another 1,742 homes with solar installed from 2007 through 2017 under the older California Solar Initiative program.

“There are a few builders that offer solar as a standard feature, and others offer it as an option,” said Mike Prandini, president/CEO of the Building Industry Association of Fresno and Madera Counties. “Usually the solar that’s included is either included in the purchase price of the house, which makes the mortgage higher, or as a 15-year lease option.”

“It depends on which way it works out best in terms of cost for the mortgage or lease. But the big issue going forward is that they have to provide the solar,” Prandini added. “It becomes a cost item for the builders.” The result, he said, will likely be a greater impact on home buyers at lower- to middle-income levels as the added cost of solar potentially pinches their buying power. Some buyers, he said, may opt for cheaper options for such amenities as kitchen counter tops, cabinets, fixtures, appliances or others to offset the price of solar.

SWIMMING IN SUNSHINE

More than 868,000 California homes have solar panels that are interconnected to the state's power grid, with a total generating capacity of almost 4.8 million kilowatts (in AC electricity). Explore the map to see the number of residential solar projects and power production in individual counties.

Figures reflect all net energy metering (NEM) interconnected solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric service territories as of June 30, 2019. No interconnected systems were reported in Alpine, Del Norte, Siskiyou or Modoc counties.

Map: Tim Sheehan | The Fresno Bee Source: Go Solar California

SAVING $80 PER MONTH

The California Energy Commission estimates that the new-home requirements for solar and other energy features will add about $9,500 on average to the cost of building a new home – or about $40 per month over a 30-year mortgage. The commission also estimates, however, that home buyers will save about $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs during the life of the mortgage, or about $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.

In addition to requiring rooftop solar, the new standards encourage – but don’t require – including energy-related technology such as battery storage, heat-pump water heaters, and improved attic, wall and window insulation in new homes and other construction.

“Once rooftop solar electricity generation is factored in, homes built under the (new) standards will use about 53% less energy than those under the 2016 standards,” according to information published by the state commission.

Through the first six months of 2019, the city of Fresno issued almost 600 building permits for new single-family or duplex homes. The number of applications for new permits will grow – quickly – as builders work to delay the effect of the new building standards by securing building permits before Jan. 1.

For home builders who already offer solar as a standard feature, the new rules won’t really change anything.

“It actually won’t affect us at all,” said Brandon DeYoung, executive vice president of DeYoung Properties in Fresno. “For the last three years or more we’ve included solar in every one of our homes. … It is a solid value to our homes and homeowners.”

DeYoung said solar is a logical step after prior versions of the building code focused on energy efficiency features that have gone about as far as they can go.

“Now we’ve pretty much squeezed out all the energy we can through efficiency. At the end of the day, you have to use some electricity, no matter how efficient the home is,” he said. “So now we have to produce energy to offset what we use, and there’s a big nuclear reactor that comes up in the sky every day.”

TRYING TO BEAT THE CLOCK

“I can guarantee there will be a glut of permits being requested in November and December,” Prandini told The Bee. “Whenever there are major changes in codes, builders try to get three to five months worth of permits in December. That gives them time to figure things out under the current code before they actually have to comply with the new requirements.”

There’s another potential catch. Home builders don’t typically handle their own installation of rooftop solar on new homes. Instead, they rely on solar companies as subcontractors just as they do for drywall, carpentry, roofing and many other components of construction. There are worries among builders about the capacity of the solar industry to keep up with demand for new installations under the new code requirements.

“Nobody is really sure what’s going to happen when those first homes (permitted after Jan. 1) start under construction in mid-2020 and they need solar crews to put panels on the rooftops,” Prandini said.

“Solar contractors are loving it because they have a captive market, just like roofers and framers and plumbers. They’re ramping up, but it’s not just because of new construction,” he added. “What’s been driving solar in this area is the number of existing homes that are converting to solar.”

A trade association for the solar installing industry, however, said having sufficient labor to install solar should not be a problem for builders.

“There are about 77,000 people in the solar industry statewide, and it’s not unreasonable to think that companies won’t staff up more,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association. “There are a lot of companies doing this work out there, mostly on existing homes, so this will just kind of shift the focus incrementally.”

Del Chiaro said she believes the 2020 standard “will mean about a 20% increase in the amount of solar installed if it is for all new homes.” She added that training for solar photovoltaic technicians, including a program at Fresno City College, is helping produce workers for the anticipated demand.

DeYoung said he’s not worried about a shortage of labor for solar subcontractors. “We’ve got seven or eight solar companies knocking on our doors wanting our business already,” he said. “There are plenty of solar companies in our area, and they see this as a huge business opportunity. They’re already starting to anticipate the need and gear up their hiring knowing that there’s going to be built-in customer demand.”

HOW MUCH POWER?

Rooftop solar panels absorb sunlight on photovoltaic cells to generate direct current electricity, which then gets converted into alternating current to flow to a home’s wiring through its electrical panel.

The amount of electricity that panels produce is measured in watts. A kilowatt (kW) is 1,000 watts; on a larger scale, a megawatt (mW) is 1 million watts.

Energy use is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) – the number of kilowatts that are used over the course of an hour. A 100-watt light bulb burning continuously for 10 hours would use 1 kWh of electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the average American home uses about 10,399 kWh over the course of a year, or or an average of about 867 kWh per month.

Between both Net Energy Metering and the older California Solar Initiative, the state has a total of 1,004,471 residential solar installations that collectively generate almost 5.5 million kW, or 5,486 mW, of electricity.

California has an abundant potential for rooftop solar, according to Google’s Project SunRoof, which uses satellite imagery of rooftops to estimate how much electricity could be generated by solar panels on all suitable buildings – residential, commercial, industrial or government.

Project SunRoof’s Data Explorer projects that in just the 43 California counties that it covers, rooftop solar panels could produce more than 243.3 billion kWh of electricity each year. Fresno County, with its wide swaths of forest and farmland where no rooftops exist, accounts for about 7.5 billion kWh of that potential. That doesn’t count a growing acreage of fallow or unproductive land where utility-scale solar “farms” are being developed to generate power.

More densely developed urban areas, by contrast, could generate much more juice – more than 48 billion kWh in Los Angeles County, or almost 23.7 billion kWh in Orange County.

Source: https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article234162737.html

California solar plus storage shows consistent installs, residential growth

By John Weaver, PV Magazine

CALSSA has obtained the interconnection data for California solar and solar plus storage for the first six months of 2019, showing significant volume of solar+storage in residential markets while commercial buyers are considering solar alone.

The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) has collected and shared data on California’s behind the meter solar+storage activity in the first half of 2019, with data that goes back to the beginning of 2016.

The data suggests that within the three main investor owned utilities – San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric – commercial interconnections are running slightly behind the 2018 numbers (below image) in terms of projects interconnected. However, residential systems seem to be picking up a bit.

One chart that gives a bit of indigestion is the time for approval for stand alone and solar+storage installations – if only because of the high variance, but also because quite a few larger projects take more than a year to get approved. The projects are divided into residential, commercial, education and industrial with time frames ranging roughly from 30 to 60 days for residential, to two years for industrial systems.

Adding solar power to a storage installation seems to speed up the amount of time for a residential installation, however, it slows a commercial installation.

In Pacific Gas & Electric territory 20% of residential energy storage systems are stand alone, while in the other territories solar is coupled with storage 99-100% of time. Commercial installations had an inverse relationship though – with only 40% of storage projects coupled with solar power, suggesting the market is being driven by other factors like demand charges.

While not broken out on an annual basis, so tougher to see recent trends, we did get insight into the top manufacturers of modules and inverters. Hanwha really has a market hold on residential modules (below chart) at 23% of product deployed, with LG & Sunpower bringing the top three to 49% of market share. The report does note 107 unique solar module brand names since 2016.

Commercial modules have SunPower on top though at 14% of all systems, with LG and Canadian Solar at 10%.

Inverters are a much tighter marketplace – with 56% of residential being SolarEdge product, followed by 20% Enphase and 12% SunPower (some of which are Enphase). The commercial market is 13% SMA, 16% Yaskawa-Solectria and 14% SolarEdge.

Installation companies are to be found aplenty – with the long tail of residential installation companies at just shirt of 1,700, and over 450 commercial installation companies noted. In the residential space, Vivint has installed over 8,000 systems totalling 50 MW and 13% of total capacity. Quickly this falls off to Tesla (SunRun mostly) at 6% of systems, SunRun at 5%, and SunPower at 3% – then a massive number of companies at 2% and less showing that customers who own pick from a variety of sources.