California solar contractors must be aware of new licensing, consumer protection rulings
The solar industry is arguably regulated more closely than any other home improvement industry since it’s connected to the utility grid — and subject to utility processes and pushback. Solar installers in California should pay close attention to two recent bureaucratic rulings that could affect their ability to continue business as usual.
New client paperwork requirement
In 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission developed a guide that solar installers must give to prospective customers in investor-owned utility (IOU) territories explaining everything they “need to know” before investing in solar, called the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. The California Solar Storage Association (CALSSA) got involved as soon as possible to revise some of the initial alarmist language in the pamphlet, said Josh Buswell-Charkow, deputy director of CALSSA.
Although contractors have technically been required to submit signed consumer guides since 2019, there weren’t consequences for noncompliance until this year. If the IOUs find that contractors are not uploading completed, signed documents, they will be added to a public list of noncompliant installers for that quarter and one following, according to Buswell-Charkow. Additionally, the IOUs will manually audit the interconnection applications of noncompliant installers during their semi-annual spot-checks. In California, residential interconnection applications are usually reviewed almost immediately by IOUs.
“As contractors know, time is of the essence here. It’s not a good thing when the IOUs are literally combing through your interconnection application to make sure you have done everything correctly,” Buswell-Charkow said. “The advice that we give to people with this guide is to make sure that you are complying with all of the requirements as far as administering it correctly and that you have good systems in place so you don’t face unintended consequences for non-compliance.”
Although CALSSA was able to suggest edits to earlier drafts, the current version is still 24 pages and includes sentiments that could potentially scare away hesitant buyers if read closely.
The guide starts with large text in an orange box with an exclamation point next to it: “PUTTING SOLAR ON YOUR HOME IS AN IMPORTANT FINANCIAL DECISION. DON’T SIGN A CONTRACT UNTIL YOU READ THIS DOCUMENT!”
It goes on to sections titled, “Watch out for false claims,” “Know your rights,” and 10 additional chapters.
“I can tell you for sure if CALSSA had the pen, there’s a bunch that we would de-emphasize, and there are other things that we would probably emphasize more. The frame of the guide would definitely be different,” Buswell-Charkow said. “On the other hand, we also think that there’s some useful information in this guide, and on the whole, we think information is a good thing and we certainly think consumers should know what they’re getting into before they decide to install solar.”
Adam Rizzo, partner at Escondido’s Palomar Solar Roofing, thinks the guide is a good tool for consumers to navigate the crowded solar market, and that it should have been released 10 years ago.
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“This is exactly how we’ve built our excellent reputation over the last 11 years — by teaching people how to do their research. We have been educating our potential clients this way since we started,” Rizzo said in an email.
He thinks the guide points out some important factors customers should research in a contractor, including how long a company has been in business, what jobs they subcontract out and how they say solar system monitoring will work.
Palomar Solar sales reps email the guide to prospective customers before even sitting down with them for their first meeting. Sometimes, customers have met with a handful of contractors already, but had not seen the guide until their meeting with Palomar, indicating that some solar companies could be in trouble if they’re audited on document submissions, Rizzo said.
Jeff Parr, CEO of San Ramon-based installer Solar Technologies, agrees that it’s good for the industry when consumers are more informed. He believes some solar companies don’t operate ethically, but he sees backdoor utility efforts at play with the guide.
“I think it’s safe to say what we saw is the opposition to distributed energy resources and to rooftop solar used those bad actors and an extremely small percentage of installations and solar customers as leverage points to try and put some obstructions between us and forward progress in this industry,” Parr said.
Parr isn’t opposed to the guide in general, but he takes issue with the tone.
“It was very much drafted essentially by the interests of the utilities, making it sound like everybody who went solar was going to get screwed,” he said.
New licensing requirements for solar storage installers
While the consequences of an unsigned consumer protection guide is a simpler paperwork issue, a new ruling by the Contractor State Licensing Board (CSLB) could cause more complex problems for some of California’s installers.
The board recently ruled that a C-46 license is no longer eligible to install solar storage systems in the state. According to CALSSA’s CEO Bernadette Del Chiaro, the ruling makes it so that every person involved on a solar storage installation — even if they only install panels and don’t touch the electrical portion — must be a C-10 electrical contractor in the state of California, or an electrical trainee registered in a state-approved apprenticeship program on a one-to-one ratio with very few exceptions.
“The C-10 as well as the General A and General B licenses, operating within their classifications, are the only remaining licenses eligible to install solar storage systems,” said Del Chiaro.
The California Energy Commission just passed the 2022 California Energy Code, which mandates that all new commercial buildings include solar storage installations. The number of contractors available to install these systems might be small if the new C-10 licensing requirement goes into effect.
CALSSA analyzed Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) and CSLB data and found only 22% of the solar storage installations in the past five years were done by contractors holding just a C-10 license. The majority of systems are being installed by contractors who hold a C-46 solar contractor license, with and without other licenses.
Obtaining a C-10 license requires workers to complete four years of on-the-job experience at a journeyman level or higher, pass the electrical exam, finish an electrical apprenticeship program in the state and more. By comparison, the C-46 license requires workers to have either a college degree or four years of solar experience and to pass a solar-specific test. Del Chiaro said the new ruling sets an unreachable bar for California’s contractor community and threatens to obstruct solar storage installations the rest of the year.
“There is a shortage of not just workers in California, but specifically electricians. It is simply impossible for this new requirement to be met,” she said in an email.
Del Chiaro believes this decision was pushed by utility interests working to slow down the fast-growing solar industry.
“This is not actually a union vs. non-union issue. There are more than enough jobs to go around for everyone. This is about the utilities trying to take down their competition,” Del Chiaro said.
What should I know Before Going Solar?
Parr of Solar Technologies believed the utility powers involved relied on the same, few bad actors in the industry to encourage this ruling as they did for the consumer guide.
“I think it was a pretty clever play by them, because if you fast-forward five years from now, every solar system is tied to an energy storage system,” Parr said. “The utilities and the electrical workers unions are trying to use other things to try and either slow down the adoption of solar and energy storage or try and grab that market for themselves.”
CALSSA is in talks with CSLB now to get further clarification on this rule and explore legal options.
In the meantime, California contractors should make sure they’re submitting all necessary documentation to the IOUs and are equipped to hire workers to satisfy new CSLB licensing requirements.
About The Author
Kelsey has spent almost seven years in the renewable energy space and is the current managing editor of Solar Power World.
Комментарии и мнения владельцев
OK…well I just plan to take the c46…wow.now taking money back out that license….going for my C10 license….1 question…is their any solar battery storage question on C10 test. an is it a (close book) test for electrical
yes there is battery storage questions and even solar questions on the c-10. it is a close book, 2 part test. one is the law and buisness side and the the trade side. be familiar with motors and 3 phase 480v systems. it is a very well rounded test. and not easy. i was fortunate to pass them both first time. i did put alot of time into the study guides which helped me a lot on the law side. Hopefully this helped and good luck on the test.
This is a very interesting move on the part of the CLSB. I am a C-46 contractor and install and fix a lot of battery systems. Our company, Solar Service Professionals, focusing on fixing a lot of messed up battery systems along with solar. This will definitely have an impact on us. I’d like to share an email that the CSLB sent out an email to all C-46 license holders including us, Solar Service Professionals. Questions Answers What do C-46 Solar contractors need to do if they want to install battery energy storage systems (BESS) after November 1, 2021? To place, install, erect, or connect a BESS, the C-46 contractor will need to add the C-10 Electrical contractor classification on their license. To get the C-10 added, go to the CSLB website and complete this application. CSLB will expedite its review of applications received by November 1, 2021. If you are a solar contractor that has been installing BESS in conjunction with photovoltaic (PV) systems for four or more years, you will meet the requirements to add the C-10 Electrical classification to your license. CSLB also encourages you to start studying early for the trade exam, please refer to CSLB’s study guide. Information regarding obtaining a wavier of the exam can be found here. Without the C-10, B, or A classification on your license, a C-46 Solar contractor cannot take a contract on a project that includes BESS installation. Beginning November 1, 2021, this applies to all new contracts on projects entered into on and after November 1, 2021, and for work occurring on and after November 1, 2021. You may refer to Business and Professions Code section 7059. Who needs to have a certified electrician on their team? A C-10 Electrical contractor needs a certified electrician on staff to engage in the connection of electrical devices greater than 100-volt amperes. CSLB recommends contractors review California Labor Code sections 108-108.5 and California Department of Industrial Relations regulations and its Electrical Certification FAQ. The only time a contractor needs a certified electrician on staff is when they hold a C-10 classification and are engaging in the connection of an electrical device pursuant to California Labor Code sections 108-108.5. This includes connecting a BESS or PV system to an existing electrical system or to a utility grid. This also includes placing, installing, erecting or connecting an electrical panel. If you have questions about a specific project, please email CSLB’s classification at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions about electrician certification or how to obtain it, please visit the Department of Industrial Relations, Electrician Certification Program webpage. When can a contractor with a C-10 electrical classification use non-certified workers? A C-10 contractor does not need to use a certified electrician to perform work on a BESS or PV when the work does not involve connecting an electrical device. Examples include installation, repair, or service of: Racks on a roof (including associated flashing and sealing roof penetrations from rack attachment). Installation of poles and racks for ground mounted solar systems. Installation of BESS racks. Installation of required BESS or PV signage. Seismic Restraints What about General Contractors (“A” General Engineering, “B” General Building) and BESS? Please see the August 12, 2021 CSLB Industry Bulletin about this question. A General Building contractor may take a prime contract that involves a PV or BESS installation if the multiple trade requirement of Business and Professions Code section 7057 is met. And a General Engineering contractor may take a prime contract that involves a PV or BESS installation if the project is in connection with fixed works requiring general engineering knowledge or skill, as required by Business and Professions Code 7056. The Labor Code sections 108 – 108.5 referenced above do not require general contractors who do not have a C-10 Electrical license to employ certified electricians.
The interests of the utilities over público interest! That is all! Have some members of the House of Representativas been bribed?
The CPUC California Consumer Protection Guidebook was made to protect customers from the the Solar Leasing and PPA agreements that entrap customers and there homes with very liberal financing methods. Unfortunately they require these 4 Initials and customer signature on Where the Solar Loan, Lease or financing tool encumbers the home in front of the mortgage. With a 15% finance charge and County gets there 7% per year through he PACE program and uses the home as security for payment. Gets tricky when homeowner goes to sell house as home title is clouded with leased/loaned Solar Electrical system. Recommend that any financed solar system requires this Homeowners Protection guide but should not be required on purchased rooftop solar electrical systems. Utility’s have cornered the California solar market for the next 20 years with Clean Power Alliance state go around for revenue protection outside of the state of California’s legal control due to the IOU and environmentalist and recent fires and billion dollar law suits can’t clear power lines of trees/brush and they get sued and lose for starting power line fires to go bankrupt every two years. Just turn off the power in high fire areas during windy conditions. California Utilities have reduce the value of rooftop solar energy and nurtured battery back up value manipulating net metering rates and TOU fees (M-F 4pm-9pm.42 cents kwh for Solar penalty rates SCE TOU-2 rate) If you can’t use your solar/battery to offset utility costs and you have to generate solar electricity at 9pm at night seems like the utility have stacked the deck for rooftop solar and battery back up systems. Rooftop solar is 3-4 per ac Watt and Industrial solar is under 450 ac watt for single axis trackers where the utility signs a 20 Year energy purchase agreement for.07 and sells the excess solar energy for.25 cents kwh without any risk that’s a 3X profit and when the national grid comes into a play with California’s excess solar energy your looking at a huge profit center for IOU’s for the next 20 years and revenue is out of control of the States Legislature hands and control. Time to purchase Clean Power Alliance subsidiary stock if it were offered sorry separately owned by the utilities for there NEXT 20 YEAR revenue stream. Go Green Solar Solutions with over 40 Years in the residential rooftop marketplace helped and developed the residential solar marketplace with SMUD 1990’s and have over 5,000 locally installed residential solar systems in West LA area. “Everything under the sun since 1981” Zero Energy, all electrical, EV powered, off grid homes are here today. Just need to clean up the Utility bureaucracy to implement the technology and get the value for the customer. Who do we talk to about that in Sacramento?
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How to obtain a solar contractors license?
Before you can apply for your solar contractors license, you must meet the following experience requirements:
- 4 years of experience performing/supervising solar work.
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- Be at least 18 years old
Don’t have 4 years of solar experience? A college degree can be substituted for up to three years of that experience.
In order to obtain your solar contractors license, you are required to pass the Trade examination as well as the Law Business exam.
Even though you can apply for a solar contractors license when you are 18 years old, it is recommended that you be at least 23 years old due to experience requirement.
Get an idea of solar panel installation costs for your area
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How To Start Your Own Solar Panel Installation Business?
Choose Your Target Market:
When launching a firm, you must first have a thorough understanding of your target market. Look for issues in the market you’ve chosen and try to address them. You can, for example, choose the place where your company will operate. You can also opt to provide residential or business installation services.
Come Up With Your Brand Name:
Have you ever wondered why Coca-Cola clocks your thoughts every time you think of soda? It’s because the brand name is inextricably linked to the firm, both artistically and psychologically. The Amazon conjures up images of a large jungle teeming with vegetation and fauna—and the online store delivers much more!
So, get up and think of a company name that is relevant to your brand. Of course, we wouldn’t recommend using your own name unless you’re well-known enough to attract clients. Create a clear branding plan to give you a leg up on the competition.
Your solar energy company’s brand should be:
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A business plan is one of the most underappreciated papers among entrepreneurs. It is the backbone of your startup, and it provides the path to all of your immediate and long-term objectives. It also lays forth a strategy for achieving these goals.
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Get The Paperwork Ready:
Attempt to manage your business properly and in accordance with the law. Register your business; obtain a license and a business permit.
Some jurisdictions may require you to be a licensed electrical contractor or general building contractor. The regulations of your state, as well as the form of your organization, will govern how you register your solar startup.
Set A Sensible Pricing:
Your pricing model should take into account the following: the amount you spend while providing solar installation services, the market price, and the value you deliver. Finding a happy medium will make your product competitive, and you’ll be able to effectively navigate the competitive market. Provide a quote and charge specific consumers based on their circumstances.
What are the Permits and License Required To Start A Solar Installation Business?
Registration of The Establishment:
The first and most important step is to register it as a legal entity in the form of a proprietorship under the Shop and Establishment Act, a limited liability partnership under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008, or a company under the Companies Act, 2013.
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All businesses that make taxable supplies of goods or services must obtain a GST Registration.All firms with a revenue that exceeds the threshold limit must register and get a GST number.
It is necessary to gain ISO 9000-2015 certification to assure the quality of services and to create client confidence.
It is recommended that a trademark registration be obtained in the name of the business for its services in order to protect the uniqueness of its services and to make the firm well-known and legendary.
What Are The Growing Opportunities For Solar Installation Business In India?
India has enormous solar potential; starting a solar business in India is a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs. India’s electricity consumption will climb as the economy grows, thus the solar energy sector in India is a good solution to manage the balance between economic growth and sustainable development.
Selling solar products:
With the advancement of solar energy projects, there are a plethora of solar energy products on the market or set to be released in the near future. The first step in starting a solar energy business in India is to offer the products needed for solar energy generation. Some of the goods marketed in the retail sector are solar pumps, solar lights, and solar chargers. Others are distributed through dealerships to retail establishments.
Manufacturing solar products:
If you want to create a solar business in India, now is the time to invest in fresh and original ideas for manufacturing solar products such as solar panels, power grids, and general solar energy items. It may require a significant investment to begin a solar product manufacturing firm, but the Indian industry is rapidly expanding, and the cost may be returned in a short period of time.
Developing solar projects:
Because of various government aids and grants, it is now easier to start your solar plant and initiate the solar energy business in India. By hiring the best solar consultants and having knowledge of solar energy production, one can invest in solar projects and earn a return on the same.
The Indian government is enthusiastic about harnessing solar energy and is pursuing a variety of initiatives to encourage green energy. The government of India has put in place a number of programmes to stimulate the solar industry. Capital subsidies, secured power purchase agreements, and accelerated depreciation are among the programs.The government plans to lower capital expenditure on the construction of solar power plants in order to make it more cost-effective for young and inventive entrepreneurs to invest their ideas in the solar sector in India.
India is likely the most open market in the world, and solar power rates have dropped dramatically over the years. Reduced solar power costs and an open market in India have spurred significant international investment in the solar industry.
In today’s world, one of the most profitable enterprises is the solar industry. The profitability of the solar energy industry is currently at an all-time high and will remain so in the future. As a result, the national and state governments of India have prioritised solar business in India and have begun agricultural solar pump programmes in several states. As a result, it will contribute to extending the breadth of PM Modi’s vision for the Start-up India project and the Aatmnirbhar Sena effort.