SAN FRANCISCO–()–Clean Power Finance today unveiled a nationwide study of solar permitting and the obstacle it poses to the widespread adoption of residential solar. The study, the largest of its kind to date, provides quantifiable evidence of the negative effects complex permitting regulations have on U.S. solar installers and also on the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), including municipalities and utilities, who oversee permitting processes.
“Strong initial interest in the National Solar Permitting Database makes it clear that people want to address permitting obstacles but aren’t quite sure where to start”
Clean Power Finance undertook the study as part of preparations for the National Solar Permitting Database (NSPD), a free, online database of permitting requirements from across the U.S. that is funded in part by Clean Power Finance and in part by a Department of Energy SunShot Initiative grant. The study’s objective is to establish baseline metrics prior to the deployment of the NSPD that can be compared to metrics taken after the NSPD is fully implemented, and to provide direction to the industry about areas for improvement.
“Strong initial interest in the National Solar Permitting Database makes it clear that people want to address permitting obstacles but aren’t quite sure where to start,” said James Tong, senior director at Clean Power Finance and project lead. “This study provides valuable data that will help identify areas for improvement and cooperation that will bring down costs for everyone and advance the adoption of solar.”
The study reveals an overall lack of sophistication on the part of AHJs and solar installers, as well as inefficiencies on both sides. Key findings include:
More than 1 in 3 installers avoid selling solar in an average of 3.5 areas because of associated permitting difficulties. Permitting processes are limiting the adoption of solar in otherwise viable solar markets, constraining a robust and growing industry. Additionally, installer unwillingness to expand to new territories may allow incumbent installers to capitalize on the lack of competition and develop virtual monopolies, leading to market inefficiencies and potentially higher costs for consumers.
Permitting varies widely and usually involves 2 (and up to 5) distinct agencies, each with different processes. The more entities involved in the permitting process, the more likely there are to be mixed messages and/or different rules that result in delays and increased costs for installers and more paperwork for AHJs.
11 percent of installations encounter a situation where requirements for solar permitting have not even been set. This indicates that AHJ policies and processes have not kept pace with the burgeoning solar market, and that more cooperation and transparency regarding permitting regulations may solve many existing problems.