By Emily Powers
On April 28, 2023, the Contractors State Licensing Board of California (CSLB) proposed a new regulation to address Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS). According to the Board’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, BESS are separate electrical systems that can complement photovoltaic solar energy systems (referred to as PV systems). PV systems convert energy from the sun to electricity for an end user. BESS stores excess electrical energy from the PV system for use when the PV system is not generating electricity, such as in cloudy weather and at night or during a utility outage.
However, current regulations do not designate which contractors are certified to install BESS, specifically C-10 Electrical Contractors and C-46 Solar Contractors. A C-10 Electrical Contractor is defined as an electrical contractor who “places, installs, erects or connects any electrical wires, fixtures, appliances, apparatus, raceways, conduits, solar photovoltaic cells or any part thereof, which generate, transmit, transform or utilize electrical energy in any form or for any purpose.” (Title 16, section 832.10 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR)) Thus, according to the CSLB, there is no question that C-10 contractors are permitted to install BESS. CSLB plans to codify this permitted installation by including BESS within the description of C-10 Electrical Contractor classification code section.
However, a C-46 Solar Contractor is defined under current rules as a contractor who “installs, modifies, maintains, and repairs thermal and photovoltaic solar energy systems.” (CCR section 832.45) Therefore, a C-46 licensee cannot currently install a BESS without adding a C-10 classification, according to the CSLB BESS FAQ. CSLB addresses this issue with CCR section 832.46, which states a C-46 licensee cannot perform trades, crafts, or skills outside the scope of their classification except when required to install a PV or thermal system. Similarly, Business and Professions Code section 7059 allows a specialty contractor (such as a C-10 or C-46) to contract outside of their classification if the work is “incidental and supplemental” (meaning the work outside of the classification is essential to accomplish the permitted licensed work).
CSLB relies on these explanations in CCR section 832.46 and Business and Professions Code section 7059 to propose that C-46 Solar Contractors be permitted to install a BESS as “incidental and supplemental” to the licensee’s work only when the BESS is installed at the same time as a PV system, and the BESS rating does not exceed 80 kWh. Only a C-10 Electrical Contractor would be permitted to install a BESS independently, separate from the simultaneous PV system installation.
This rule comes as California faces massive growth in electric energy storage systems. According to the California Energy Commission, the state’s buildout of battery energy storage systems has doubled in the past two years. BESS and PV systems are part of California’s goal to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.
CSLB held a public hearing on the proposed rule on Thursday, August 3, 2023, and the public comment period closed on August 2, 2023. The rule is currently awaiting approval from the Office of Administrative Law.