Renewable Energy

In his January 2015 inaugural address   , Governor Brown laid out an ambitious vision for renewable energy. He called for half of the State’s electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030. The California State Legislature agreed with him.

On October 7, 2015, Senate Bill 350: Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act (de León, Chapter 547, Statutes of 2015) was signed into law, establishing new clean energy, clean air and greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2030 and beyond.

SB 350 signing

Senate Bill 350 also tasked the California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) with identifying the barriers to clean energy and transportation access for low-income residents and disadvantaged communities, and specific recommendations to increase access.

CEC and CARB developed separate but interrelated barriers reports which outline the main clean energy and transportation barriers and specific recommendations to increase access across the State. These reports relied upon a public process, including engaging directly with low-income residents in rural, tribal, and urban communities.

  • CEC Barriers Study   : Adopted in December 2016 with implementation in progress.
  • ARB Barriers Study   : Draft released in April 2017 and anticipated to be finalized later this year. 

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research serves on the interagency taskforce to help implement recommendations from these barriers studies. For more information, please email

How does the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research support the State’s transition to renewable energy?

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research provides resources to inform local implementation of permitting processes to streamline renewable energy installation, such as the California Solar Permitting Guidebook. These efforts provide clarity and efficiency in order to accelerate deployment of renewable energy resources on California’s grids. At the same time, OPR staff track compliance with State legislative mandates related to streamlining requirements, the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act (AB 2188- Muratsuchi, 2014) and AB 1236 (Chiu, 20115).

OPR tracks financing and funding opportunities for renewable energy projects, working with a variety of State agencies including the California Energy Commission, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Air resources Board and the Strategic Growth Council. These opportunities are sent to OPR’s email subscribers. If you would like notice of these opportunities, please join OPR’s List-Serve.

OPR staff serve on a number of working groups, including the SB 350 Taskforce, the Solar Permitting Taskforce, the Energy Adaptation Working Group and more. OPR works with public agencies, businesses, non-profits and foundations to help ensure California reaches the State’s renewable energy generation target.

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the California Building Standards Commission and the Government Operations Agency have updated the Solar Permitting Guidebook in response to new legislative orders and updated building codes. The focus of the Winter 2017 Update includes highlighted changes to Appendices 3, 4 and 7 as well as relevant National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Tentative Interim Amendments (TIA). We hope these serve as useful resources as jurisdictions across California continue to expand solar energy.

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is pleased to release the second edition of the California Solar Permitting Guidebook. Developed in partnership with the Center for Sustainable Energy and with input from a task force of participants from state code agencies, local building departments and the solar industry, this updated document reflects recent changes to the building code and new legislation. This update will also help address the requirements of the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act (formerly Assembly Bill 2188    - Muratsuchi), signed into law by Governor Brown in September 2014

The Solar Permitting Efficiency Act requires the state’s cities and counties to adopt streamlined solar permitting processes by Sept. 30, 2015. Adopting a modernized and standardized permitting process for installations of small-scale solar distributed generation technology on residential rooftops will increase the deployment of solar distributed generation, help to expand access to lower income households, provide solar customers greater installation ease, improve the state’s ability to reach its clean energy goals, and generate much needed jobs in the state, all while maintaining safety standards. The Second Edition of this Guidebook lays out a safe, standardized, and streamlined permitting process that can be adopted by most local governments with only minor changes to reflect local requirements.

While the price of photovoltaic solar has fallen by half since 2006, “soft costs” such as permitting remain high. An expedited permitting process would mean applicants for solar PV systems up to 10 kilowatts that fit certain criteria could use an online application process and expect over-the-counter or rapid approval by the local permitting agency.

In order to turn these ambitious goals into reality and expand small-scale renewable energy in California’s communities, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has been working to remove barriers that constrain expansion of small-scale renewables. The Solar Permitting Guidebook is an important step toward this goal. The Guidebook explains current requirements for solar PV installations, describes key steps in the permitting process, and recommends ways to improve local permitting. It also includes several template documents that local governments can customize for their own use to improve permitting. The guidebook can also be helpful beyond local governments, providing useful information to solar contractors and property owners.

  • California Solar Permitting Guidebook, Spring 2015 Edition  
  • Submittal Requirements for Permit Applications
    pdf    |  word   
  • Eligibility Checklist for Expedited Permitting Template
    pdf    |  word  
  • Central/String Inverter Application Template
    pdf    |  word  
  • Microinverter and ACM Application Template
    pdf    |  word  
  • Structural Criteria Template
    pdf    |  word   
  • Sample Interdepartmental Memorandum of Understanding (for Plan Review and Inspection)
    pdf    |  word   
  • Inspection guide for PV systems
    pdf    |  word   
  • Submittal Requirements Bulletin — Solar Domestic Water Heating Installations 30 kWth or Less for One- and Two-Family Dwellings
    pdf    |  word  
  • Submittal Requirements Bulletin — Solar Pool Heating Installations 30 kWth or Less for One- and Two-Family Dwellings
    pdf    | word  
  • Eligibility Checklist for Expedited Solar Domestic Water Heating Permitting for One- and Two-Family Dwellings
    pdf    |  word  
  • Eligibility Checklist for Expedited Solar Pool Heating Permitting for One- and Two-Family Dwellings
    pdf    |  word  
  • Solar Domestic Water Heating Standard Plan for One- and Two-Family Dwellings
  • Solar Pool Heating Standard Plan for One- and Two-Family Dwellings
    pdf    |  word  
  • Structural Criteria for Residential Rooftop Solar Energy Installations
    pdf    |  word  
  • Inspection Guide for SDWH Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings
    pdf    |  word  
  • Inspection Guide for Solar Pool Heating Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings
    pdf    |  word  

Additional resources for jurisdictions adopting a streamlined solar permitting ordinance are located on the Center for Sustainable Energy    website, including a model implementation guide and model ordinance:

Recent statutes like the Solar Rights Act and SB 226 have been put in place to ensure fewer obstacles to the increased use of both residential and commercial solar photovoltaic systems.

As renewable energy resources continue to grow in California, the ultimate goal is to develop an expedited, efficient statewide solar permitting process.  The implementation of a more time-bound process will allow for the state of California to maximize its renewable energy potential, providing for more seamless integration of solar technology into our communities as well as the creation of a more effective market for solar energy.

Cost-effective methods and post-installation benefits available to installers, designed to encourage participation in the growing solar community

Solar Group Buy Programs

  • SunShares Model    – this program was originated by City of San Jose; Bay Area Climate Collaborative used the San Jose model to develop guidance and tools for other local governments and private businesses to establish solar group buy programs for their employees
  • California School Boards Association    – Solar Schools Program
  • Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Purchasing Power   : Best Practices Guide to Collaborative Solar Procurement (2011 World Resources Institute/Joint Venture Silicon Valley)
  • Open Neighborhoods Solar Program    - Santa Monica/Los Angeles area
  • Residential Solar Group Buy Guide    – US Dept. of Energy, Solar America Communities Program
  • Solar Master Plans for Public Schools – KyotoUSA and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have completed  Solar Master Plans    for the Berkeley, Oakland and West Contra Costa School Districts.  These plans provide a roadmap for other school districts or local governments to follow to methodically evaluate the potential for solar systems at their facilities.

Rebates for Installing Solar Systems 

New Residences:

Existing Residences: 

The California Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board have posted fact sheets summarizing the 2030 climate goals that the Governor proposed in his 2015 inaugural address.