Contractors State License Board Considers Proposed Rulemaking Relating to Solar BESS Installer Requirements

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By Thomas A. T. Ferrari

At the November 29, 2021 Contractors State License Board (CSLB) meeting, the Board considered whether to approve proposed regulatory text to amend sections 810, 831, 832.10, and 832.46, Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), and initiate the formal rulemaking process pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  These amendments would limit the scope of C-46 licensees and require a Class C-10 licensee to install solar Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) in California.

The vote comes after the California Solar and Storage Association filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint in the San Francisco Superior Court, alleging among other things that the CSLB failed to comply with the APA on July 27, 2021, when it voted to preclude C-46 licensees from installing BESS.[See previous reporting.]

According to the staff memo [Agenda Item D-1], CSLB began exploring the issue of the appropriate contractor license classification to install battery energy storage systems on October 28, 2016, when it heard dozens of hours of public testimony on the topic, and on March 21, 2019, it published an 81-page Energy Storage Systems report. [24:2 CRLR 92–93] After additional hours of public participation and conflicts surrounding economic impacts and safety implications of allowing C-46 licensees to install BESS, CSLB sought a qualified expert to review the appropriate classification to install BESS. The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) was chosen to complete the study, its conclusion being a strong recommendation “that the CSLB limit the scope of the C-46 to its original scope and preclude C-46 (no C10) license holders from installing BESS.”

At that point, the Board voted to adopt UC Berkeley’s recommendation at the July 2021 meeting.  (see previous reporting)

At the November meeting, CSLB Chair Susan Franzella reported that on November 22, she and Vice Chair Mary Teichert held a series of meetings with stakeholders from the electrical and solar industry to discuss the proposed regulatory language, which mirrors the language of the resolution the Board made in July. Franzella presented the Board with two options for consideration:

First, to have CSLB staff determine whether the proposed language requires an additional expert update regarding its workforce assumptions is needed, and whether its proposed regulation is subject to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review—and if so, to return to the Board with a recommendation on how to proceed, or if staff determines no update is needed and CEQA review is not needed, that the Registrar is authorized to initiate rulemaking with the language proposed.  Second, to refer this matter to the Board’s legislative committee, direct staff to collect additional stakeholder input, and to develop alternative regulatory language that may be acceptable to both the solar and electrical industry stakeholders.

Ms. Teichert moved that the Board adopt option two, reporting that based on the stakeholder meetings, she believes that with more time, it is possible to put together alternative regulatory language that may be acceptable to both solar and electrical industry stakeholders that would ensure safe BESS installation while permitting the number of small women and minority owned contractors to conduct the installation.

After lengthy discussion and public comment from a number of stakeholders, Mr. Mark renewed the motion for option 2, with the additional stipulation that should the solar and electrical stakeholders not come to an agreement by the Board’s March 2022 meeting, it would proceed with APA rulemaking proceedings using the language proposed during CSLB’s November 29, 2021 meeting at that time. The motion was unanimously approved.

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