Solar Permitting Guidebook


Center for Sustainable Energy, in partnership with the Office of Planning and Research, Released New Permitting Guidebook On Eve of AB 2188 Going into Effect

On the eve of the nation’s first streamlined solar permitting law, AB 2188 (Muratsuchi), going into effect, a new resource guide aimed at helping cities and counties expedite and streamline the permitting process for all home solar energy systems was released today. 

The California Solar Permitting Guidebook addresses the requirements of the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act (formerly Assembly Bill 2188) signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September that requires the state’s more than 540 cities and counties to adopt streamlined solar permitting processes by Sept. 30, 2015. With the help of this guidebook, AB 2188 aims is to cut installation costs for homeowners, increase local jobs and economic development for solar businesses, and reduce the workload of permitting agencies. California is the first state to mandate standardized solar permitting processes.

“It takes a solar contractor one day to install a residential solar system yet in many cities and counties it takes months just to get a simple permit,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “Thanks to AB 2188, and this accompanying guidebook, that bureaucratic burden should lighten, allowing solar businesses to deploy more solar and employ more people.”

In much the same way as cell phones a decade ago, the price of solar has fallen 50% since 2006 mainly due to economies of scale in manufacturing. However, the “soft costs” of solar, including the cost of getting a permit from a local building department, remains stubbornly high. 

“California leads the nation in rooftop solar installations, but achieving the state’s ambitious goals for renewable energy will require even greater solar adoption, and the permitting process has been a major barrier,” said Tamara Gishri-Perry, a CSE senior project manager. “The new legislation is an opportunity for local governments to reduce their paperwork and costs for approving what are typically fairly simple home rooftop solar installations.”

Research has shown that costs associated with attaining a building permit for a residential solar energy system can be significant. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs concluded that streamlining the permitting process could reduce the price of a typical home solar system by $1,000 or more, which, in turn, promises to increase demand for solar thereby growing local businesses.

Approximately 158,000 solar roofs were installed on California homes in 2013, double the number from 2012, and 2014 is shaping up to be the solar industry’s biggest year yet. The growth in homeowners going solar, fueled by financial incentives and a desire to cut energy bills, has led to a backlog of work at local permitting offices. Advocates of AB 2188 point out that streamlining the permitting process for solar not only helps homeowners but also cuts workloads for cash-strapped building departments.

AB 2188 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September after receiving several bi-partisan votes in the legislature. The bill was supported by a coalition of business associations, solar companies, environmental groups, and local elected officials.    

The guidebook, published in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, contains best practices for permitting and inspection of home solar systems as well as standard application forms and checklists for solar installations. CSE’s renewable energy team compiled the guidebook with input from a task force of participants from state code agencies, local building departments and the solar industry. It is available online at

CSE staff provides free technical assistance to any local government agency that wants to adopt the California Solar Permitting Guidebook and offers an implementation guide, model ordinances and other resources. They are planning webinars and in-person trainings in 2015 for local government officials focusing on the benefits of adopting the guidebook’s recommendations. For information, email solar or call 415-796-0135.

More information about AB 188 can be found at