The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

One Man's Fight To Cut California Solar Permitting Fees

One of the satisfactions of being a Sierra Club volunteer is knowing that you have helped with some environmental victory. But few volunteers can boast of the achievement of Kurt Newick: two bills were signed into California law that would not have happened without him. They were the outcome of his hard work over seven years (see January-February 2011, page 4), and he helped draft them. Lots of other volunteers were involved, of course, but it was Kurt's initiative, hard work, and expertise that made the laws possible. Kurt notes with appreciation, "There was always someone willing to work with me."

The story goes back to 2005. Kurt, who works for a solar contractor, saw a problem that was discouraging people from installing photovoltaic solar panels. Every city and county charges a permit fee for a new solar system, but in many cases the fees were much greater than the costs involved in issuing the permit–and large enough to be a significant discouragement to homeowners and businesses considering an installation.

Kurt (pictured, left with award) didn’t just grumble–he organized. He worked with the Global Warming and Energy Committee of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter to conduct a survey of the permit fees for residential solar installations in his chapter, and the committee then publicized the results and encouraged jurisdictions to cut high fees. The results were astounding–lots of cities started lowering their fees.

Kurt and the committee didn’t rest on their laurels. They extended the survey to include the Bay Chapter and several others (for a total of 25 counties), and to include commercial installations. The project depended on Kurt’s hard work–and on his insider’s knowledge of the solar business.

In 2011 state Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblymember Nora Campos  contacted Kurt for advice about statewide policies on the permit fees. They needed to be fair to enable cost-recovery for the cities, yet not so high as to discourage new installations. Kurt worked with legislative staff to craft bills. Along with Sierra Club California senior advocate Jim Metropulos, Kurt provided advice and presented amendments that the lawmakers included in the final bills.

“We were pleased to work with the Sierra Club and Kurt Newick on SB 1222, which helps streamline government bureaucracy to make solar more accessible to consumers,” said Leno. “Kurt’s extensive studies on solar fees statewide were the supporting basis for the bill. Our teamwork led to bipartisan support and will help ensure that the solar industry continues to generate investment and jobs in California.”

Kurt was invited to Sacramento to testify before legislative committees. Kurt comments: “I was impressed with the legislative process. It was important to the lawmakers to make the legislation simple, and fair to all parties.”

The two new laws are:

  • SB 1222 (Leno), which caps PV permit fees for rooftop systems by restricting a city or county from charging more for a solar permit than the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged, and providing specific limits on the dollar amount local governments may charge for a PV permit:
    •   residential systems: $500, plus $15 for every kilowatt (kW) over 15 kW;
    •   commercial systems: $1,000 for systems up to 50 kW, plus $7 for every kW between 51 kW and 250
    kW, plus $5 for every kW over 250 kW.
  • AB 1801 (Campos), which 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.

For more information on the Sierra Club’s solar-permit-fee campaign in California see www.SolarPermitFees.org.

This article was orignally published in The Sierra Club Yodeler and was reprinted with permission.

Lead image: superhero via shutterstock.

RELATED ARTICLES

Rooftop Solar Panels

Hypocrisy? While Buffett Champions Renewables, His Company Fights Rooftop Solar

Mark Chediak, Noah Buhayar and Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg Warren Buffett highlights how his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. utilities make massive investments in renewable energy. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the company is fighting a plan that would encourage more residents to use green power.
Japan Microgrid

Born from Disaster: Japan Establishes First Microgrid Community

Junko Movellan, Correspondent Although Japan's Fukushima prefecture is most commonly associated with the 2011 disaster due to the nuclear power melt-down, Miyazaki prefecture, located north of Fukushima, suffered from the largest death toll, close to 10...
Renewable Energy Finance

Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit re...

Wheels, Towers and Trees: Unconventional Renewable Energy Technologies in the Pipeline

Andrew Williams, International Correspondent A number of companies around the world are developing novel technologies in an effort to grab a slice of the global renewable energy market.  Although many of these technologies are simple incremental improvements to e...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

Energy Security: Opportunity Power with the Sunny Boy Secure Power ...

Wouldn’t it be great to have a grid-tied inverter that could still...

SMA More Power, More Profit Tour - Duluth

SMA’s More Power, More Profit Tour is aimed to provide highly-valu...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

Boulder County Residents Generate Their Own Energy with Community S...

Despite a soggy afternoon, solar energy advocates gathered at ...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS