There aren’t many political initiatives that see tremendous bipartisan support these days, but Colorado’s ‘Fair Permit Act’ to limit fees on solar installations breezed through the house and senate with broad support.
The bill, which will allow local and state agencies to charge only enough to recoup expenses and cap residential solar installation permitting fees at $500 and commercial installation fess at $1,000, passed 33 to 2 in the senate and 64 to 1 in the house.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill into law later this week.
“And the savings will start immediately once it’s signed into law,” said Neal Lurie, executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “Ultimately, this is a bill to promote economic growth in Colorado,” Lurie said.
Representative Bob Gardner, Senator Bob Bacon, and Senator Shawn Mitchell sponsored the bill.
Lurie and COSEIA started urging legislators to take up the cause after hearing over and over that the fees solar customers were paying were huge and growing.
A recent national survey found that the average residential solar installation comes along with $2,516 in local government and state agency permitting fees, Lurie said. And a large-scale installation can cost up to $100,000 in fees.
Local permitting and inspection accounted for about 13 percent of the expense of installing a residential solar array in 2007 and today accounts for a full third, according to COSEIA’s press release.
“Clearly something has needed to be done,” Lurie said.
As industry and government have pushed and funded innovation in order to bring down the cost of solar technology, the permitting fees have gone up, unraveling the progress.
President Barack Obama’s SunShot initiative aims to make solar more affordable and bring its total cost to the consumer down below $1 per watt. Part of that initiative is to reduce permitting fees by 88 percent, Lurie said.
He noted that in countries like Germany and Japan that have aggressive programs for increasing solar deployment, they have done away with permits for residential solar installations altogether.
“I don’t think we’re going to go there,” Lurie said. “But we need to limit excessive fees.”
He said this legislation is groundbreaking in the solar world and that he expects to see other states around the country do the same thing.
Pictured: A solar plant outside of Fort Collins, Colo., a partnership between Colorado State University and Xcel Energy.