Report Reveals Long Lags, High Costs In Colorado’s Solar Permitting Practices

The Vote Solar Initiative and the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) have released a report and online interactive map rating solar permitting practices in 34 cities and counties across Colorado. Local solar permitting practices have a significant impact on the cost of solar energy systems for homes and businesses, according to the report.

The research indicates that, although practices vary widely by municipality or county, the average fee for Colorado solar permitting is nearly twice as high and seven times longer than national permitting best practices. The findings reinforce the need for Colorado to adopt the standardized, streamlined solar permitting practices contained in the Fair Permit Act of 2011 (H.B.10) and to keep working to simplify permitting processes to drive down costs for consumers, Vote Solar and COSEIA explain.

‘With a clear policy commitment to renewables in place, Colorado has become one of the nation's most promising solar markets,’ says Gwen Rose, deputy director of Vote Solar and lead author of the report. ‘However, the state has an inefficient permitting landscape that directly undermines its renewable energy and economic development goals.

‘Removing red tape and unnecessary fees from the solar permitting process is one simple and effective way that local governments can support Coloradan investment in clean energy,’ Rose continues.

When a Colorado energy customer invests in a solar electric or solar thermal system, that resident, business or other organization must first apply for and obtain a permit from the local government. According to best practices, this process should be transparent, standardized, expeditious and reflective of the municipality's actual cost of review and issuance.

As the report indicates, costs still vary widely by municipality due to different permitting plan review processes and other extraneous fees. This has resulted in piecemeal, local permitting practices that are often costly, complex, non-transparent and time-intensive.

H.B.11 is designed to reduce Colorado's local solar permitting costs and clear the way for increased in-state investment in solar and related economic development, according to Vote Solar and COSEIA. Specifically, the Colorado Fair Permit Act would do the following:

– Extend existing $500 and $1,000 permit fee limitations to the plan review and permit issuance process for solar energy systems under 2 MW in size – these are currently set to expire on July 1;

– Reduce unnecessary costs by limiting plan review and permit issuance fees to their actual costs for solar energy systems larger than 2 MW in size; and

– Promote transparency by ensuring that local governments clearly and individually identify all fees and taxes assessed on an invoice.

In addition, the report found that permit fees for an average-sized residential solar system can cost $2,000 and take as many as 20 business days. The average cost of a solar permit in Colorado is $495, compared to a best practice fee of $250 or lower.

SOURCE: Vote Solar

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