California backs off on added licensing for solar installers to do battery projects

California construction regulators have backed off on a new rule that would have required solar installers as of Nov. 1 to get further licensing to be able to put in battery storage systems.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta on Oct. 4 filed a stipulation in court that the mandate would be paused until a lawsuit brought by a trade group representing solar installers is resolved, according to the document.

“This is a huge relief, albeit temporary, for hundreds of contractors up and down the state,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of that trade group, California Solar & Storage Association, in a statement. “The restrictions suddenly imposed this past summer were devastating and came at a time when consumers and the state as a whole desperately need more reliable clean energy, not less.”

The association sued the Contractors State Licensing Board over a July 27 decision that gave contractors with a C-46 solar installer license classification 90 days to obtain the C-10 electrical contractor classification to be able to sign new contracts that included battery energy storage systems, or BESS.

Also part of that decision was that general contractors with A and B license classifications would continue to be allowed to hook up the batteries specifically bringing in an outside certified electrician.

In its Sept. 17 complaint in San Francisco Superior Court, the trade group contended that the board’s action would prevent about 500 contractors who just hold C-46 classifications from being able to get new solar jobs that include batteries at a transformational time in California’s energy mix.

Electrical storage at the home, business and utility level is considered to be a key part of California’s planned transition to zero-emission power over the next 24 years and is set to be an important addition to next year’s update to the state building code. Batteries would store energy generated by renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, allowing electricity to be released to the grid when those variable sources aren’t producing, particularly during peak demand.

The installer association contends that the board’s action tried to sidestep the rule-making process under the Administrative Procedures Act, which can take a year to 18 months to complete. The state responded in a court filing Oct. 21, denying that and other allegations.

The board communicated its C-46 classification decision in an industry circular Aug. 17 and in mid-September held a workshop on what C-46 classification holders would have to do to get a C-10 classification. Board staff clarified that C-46 holders with more than four years of experience installing photovoltaic systems would be eligible for add C-10 after passing an exam.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at or 707-521-4256.

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