Two bills signed in 2012 (AB 1801 and SB 1222) place limits on the fees that cities, counties, cities and counties, and charter cities can charge for a solar permit. CA Government Code § 65850.55 specifies that a local government cannot base the fee for a solar permit on the value of the solar system or the value of the property on which the system will be installed. It also requires the local government to separately identify every fee charged on the invoice provided to the applicant. The definition of a solar system under AB 1801 includes photovoltaics (PV), solar water heating, and solar space heating.
CA Government Code § 66015 restricts a city, county, city and county, or charter city from charging more for a solar permit than the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged. The law further provides specific limits on the dollar amount local governments may charge for a permit:
- Residential solar energy systems: $500, plus $15 for every kilowatt (kW) over 15 kW
- Commercial solar energy 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
The restrictions of CA Government Code § 66015 only apply to roof-mounted PV systems, not ground-mounted systems or solar thermal systems, and only for permits issued prior to January 1, 2018. The law also gives local governments the ability to exceed these cost limits by resolution or ordinance if they provide substantial evidence of the reasonable cost to issue the permit, and meet other criteria.
AB 2188 (CA Government Code § 65850.5) of September 2014 required all city, county, and city and county governments to adopt an ordinance that creates an expedited streamlined permitting process for small residential rooftop solar energy systems. In developing an expedited permitting process, the city, county, or city and county must provide a checklist of all requirements for small rooftop solar energy systems to comply with to be eligible for expedited review.