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CA Counties and Cities Urged to Adopt SolarAPP+ as Biden Administration Launches New Cost Saving Platform

For Immediate Release

Launch featuring U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Granholm and mayoral roundtable today at 10 am PT here . Roundtable and videos feature several California mayors and other local electeds. Recording will be available here immediately after the event (at ~ 11 am PT).

Sacramento, Calif. – Solar advocates across California applauded the Biden Administration’s newly launched SolarAPP+ and urged county and city leaders to quickly adopt the breakthrough resource to help lower the cost for consumers to go solar.  

SolarAPP+ is an automated application to speed up and increase the accuracy of the process for permitting new residential rooftop solar and storage systems. The new consumer-friendly tool – identified by the Biden Administration as a priority and released today by Department of Energy Secretary Granholm – will not only expedite but also lower costs for solar and storage installation.

To date, installing rooftop solar is about twice as expensive in the United States as it is in such countries as Australia or Germany – despite similar wages and equipment costs. This difference is caused by the “soft costs” associated with residential solar installations, which includes paying for a local building department permit. For a solar customer, these added expenses can amount to as much as $1 per watt of the installation, or $5,000 for a typical residential solar system.

The SolarAPP+ program offers an integral way to cut permitting costs. Developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy, SolarAPP+ provides a web-based portal that streamlines and automates permit reviews, making it easier to integrate into existing local government permitting software. 

NREL introduced SolarAPP+ in late 2020 and, since then, has rapidly expanded the program’s capabilities. In April 2021, Pleasant Hill became the first California city to adopt SolarAPP+, and several California cities and counties are on track to formally adopt it later this year.  The number of SolarAPP+ adopters is projected to dramatically expand in the coming year on the heels of the California state budget, signed by Governor Newsom on July 13, included $20 million for technical assistance targeted for local jurisdictions planning to adopt expedited permitting software such as SolarAPP+.

“The $20 million investment in the State’s budget will help us streamline the permitting process for residential rooftop solar and energy storage, allowing more Californians to access clean energy,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who authored a bill this year to require California cities to adopt app-based solar permitting and who worked to obtain funding in the California budget to help cities implement. “This budget will help California achieve our climate goals more quickly and cost-effectively and allow more homeowners to participate in our clean energy future.”

"With a $20 million investment in automated solar permitting, California promises to save California homeowners up to $3 billion in permit-related costs over the coming decade. This is not only a win for our climate, but also our residents’ pocketbooks. It’s a model that all local jurisdictions should follow," said Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).

“SolarAPP+ is a much needed step forward to make the process of installing rooftop solar in California friction-free and consumer-friendly," said California Energy Commission Chair David Hochschild. "With over one million rooftop solar energy systems, California is adding approximately 400 new rooftop solar systems a day, helping to make our energy system cleaner, more resilient and distributed.”

Jurisdictions across the state are already moving to implement SolarAPP+ and help local consumers save money. 

"When the City of San Jose became an early adopter of automated solar permitting, the volume of rooftop solar applications jumped six-fold," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. "I am thrilled about the prospect of municipalities across the nation joining our efforts to utilize tools like SolarAPP+ to fight climate change and create renewable energy."

"As the author of Senate Bill 100 which catalyzed the state's transition to a 100% renewable portfolio standard, making California the first in the nation to do so, I welcome the national launch of SolarAPP+," said Councilmember and former California Senate President pro tempore Kevin de Leon. "I believe this tool will stimulate the City of Los Angeles to expedite permitting and allow us to keep leading the way toward a Green New Deal locally, statewide, and nationally."

"As the first city in the nation to electrify new buildings, Berkeley takes its role as a climate leader very seriously," said Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley Mayor and President of the Association of Bay Area Government. "I am excited to bring SolarAPP+ to our community, as it is a vital tool for us to continue our city's and the larger Bay Area's work in combating climate change while generating thousands of good-paying local jobs."

For installers across the state, this streamlining will be a game changer. Local rooftop solar installers were quick to hail the launch of SolarAPP+ 

“Using SolarApp+ should also help rein in the ‘soft costs’ of going solar, which could have a big impact on solar deployment. “Cost is one of the biggest barriers to going solar,” said Igor Tregub, senior policy advisor at the California Solar and Storage Association, an organization representing hundreds of contractors who build more than 430 rooftop solar systems every day in California. “Already, rooftop solar is growing fastest in low- and working-class communities and by lowering costs further, we can put solar in the hands of more people.” 

The local leadership is also being celebrated by the environmental community. 

“As California faces a worsening drought, more heatwaves and the prospect of catastrophic wildfires for yet another year, the need for cities and the state to take action on climate couldn’t be clearer,” said Laura Deehan, state director for Environment California. “We hope cities and counties all over California will help their residents go solar by automating the permitting process with SolarApp+.”

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The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) has advanced the common interest of the solar and storage industry for over 40 years, making California the most robust market in the U.S. The association is the state’s largest clean energy business group with over 600 member companies, primarily small businesses based in communities throughout the state, that manufacture, design, install, finance and provide other resources to the growing local solar and storage market in California. Learn more atwww.calssa.org.

Environment California is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit www.environmentcalifornia.org.