The solar industry is trumpeting the introduction of the American Energy Opportunity Act by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Susan Collins (R-ME) this week, which will provide voluntary assistance and tools to local governments to simplify, standardize, and automate clean energy permitting for their residents and businesses while enhancing safety.
The legislation builds on the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative launched by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation last year. The goal for both SolarAPP and the American Energy Opportunity Act is to simplify the process for permitting and inspecting distributed solar and battery installations through a free, universally-available online permitting portal for local governments.
We also covered this issue extensively in our award-winning investigative feature Shadow Costs.
“If we truly want economical clean energy at a local level, we need to streamline the permitting process for distributed energy technologies like rooftop solar,” said Senator Heinrich, Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Energy. “The current patchwork of permitting requirements across local jurisdictions causes delays and increases costs for both local governments and the businesses and homeowners who want to build smaller-scale renewable energy systems. I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to help state and local governments reduce unnecessary costs and procedures in order to promote small-scale grid modernizations in communities in New Mexico and across the nation.”
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Interconnection, permitting, and inspection processes adds up to about $7,000, or $1.00 per watt, in direct and indirect costs to a typical residential solar energy system. This increases installation costs for consumers and stifles homeowner and business investments in clean energy.
In addition to reducing the cost of solar installations, the American Energy Opportunity Act will support local governments by creating a framework to work collaboratively toward instantaneous permitting for distributed energy resources. Instantaneous permitting will simplify going solar and reduce costs while helping communities reduce their administrative burdens, attract business investment, and promote economic development and job creation.
“This bill is a win-win-win for consumers, local governments, and clean energy businesses. Local governments and building inspectors don’t always have the resources they need to go from permitting a kitchen remodel to permitting a solar system,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This bill will provide tools to improve the solar permitting process across the nation, reducing costs for consumers while enhancing safety and quality. This means more people and businesses can deploy solar faster and better.”