The California License Board now requires licensed electricians to perform energy storage retrofits and maintenance

Late last week, the California Contractors’ Licensing Board (CSLB) dealt a blow to the state’s goal of rapidly growing domestic energy storage capacity, according to the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA).

The CSLB voted to approve a new rule prohibiting licensed solar contractors from installing new battery storage capacity for existing solar systems or performing maintenance on battery storage systems including those they have installed themselves. These projects will now require a licensed electrician. Licensed solar contractors will still be able to install smaller battery storage units at the same time as solar systems, but the inability to offer warranties on those systems makes the allowance impractical.

By severely limiting the workforce allowed to build solar and energy storage systems and raising the cost of installations, the CLSB rule runs counter to California’s stated goal of rapid growth of energy storage capacity.

Clean energy advocates described the new rule as a solution in search of a problem. It was approved by the CSLB even though research conducted by the board found no previous safety issues or incidents across all US energy storage batteries installed to date.

“California continues to say one thing and do another when it comes to combating climate change,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, CALSSA Executive Director. “Just last year, California cut incentives for rooftop solar, banned self-generation for schools and farms, and proposed expensive flat fees that hurt energy conservation and low-power users. Now they are undermining California’s nascent battery storage progress by severely restricting power This must stop if we are to move forward as a country, keep energy prices low, and prevent future blackouts.

The new rule was opposed by the solar and storage industry, clean energy advocates and consumers, along with unions representing workers and carpenters. The electricians union, which signed an agreement with PG&E to address “competitive threats in the market,” supported the change.

The rule will now be reviewed by the California Office of Administrative Law to ensure that the regulations are “clear, necessary, and legally valid” and that CSLB adheres to the standards set forth in the California Administrative Procedure Act. The rule could then go into effect as early as fall 2024.

Opponents of the rule have asked the Newsom administration to intervene and are considering legal challenges based on a combination of procedural and substantive flaws in the CSLB rulemaking process including the fact that the agency refused to study the environmental impacts of the new rule.

News from the California Solar and Storage Association

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