The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Roger Lin, Center for Biological Diversity,
Jenn Engstrom, CalPIRG,
Cailey Underhill, Solar Rights Alliance,

Lawsuit Challenges California Licensing Board Attack on Rooftop Solar


The Center for Biological Diversity joined consumer and solar advocates today to challenge a new California regulation prohibiting solar contractors from installing or maintaining battery storage.

The Contractors State License Board’s rule would increase the cost and administrative burden of installing rooftop solar and storage, vital technologies that make communities more resilient to utility blackouts and the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency.

“It’s outrageous that California regulators keep attacking rooftop solar and it has to stop,” said Roger Lin, a senior attorney at the Center. “They’re undermining California’s climate goals and putting clean energy further out of reach for working-class families. This licensing trick is straight from the utility playbook and will cause electricity rates to skyrocket while worsening the climate emergency. People are dying from extreme heat and California desperately needs smart, resilient energy solutions. Instead, the board is propping up a brittle electricity grid that devastates critical habitats and promotes environmental injustice.”

Today’s amended lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, adds the Center to a complaint filed last month by CalPIRG, the Solar Rights Alliance, the California Solar & Storage Association, and one of the affected solar contractors.

In the midst of plummeting rooftop solar installation rates and historic job losses, the board refused to address how its new regulation would further harm small businesses. It amended the license for solar contractors without analyzing the potential economic impacts, as state law requires.

“This misguided decision by the licensing board greatly limits who we can go to for solar storage, without any real evidence of a safety issue. Consumers should be able to choose their own contractor — especially someone they already vetted and picked to put up their solar panels — to install and maintain solar storage,” said Jenn Engstrom, CALPIRG state director. “This red tape will not only delay services and cost more for consumers, but also will slow the installation of solar and storage across the state. That will make it harder for us to hit our clean energy goals, which is bad for every Californian.”

“The CSLB’s decision puts solar users’ warranties in jeopardy and strips consumers of choices to control their energy bills and avoid power outages,” said Dave Rosenfeld, executive director of Solar Rights Alliance. “The ruling was made without evidence, will further squash consumer access to rooftop solar and batteries, and is yet another gift to the utility monopoly.”

The board also refused to consider environmental harms from the new regulation, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. Hundreds of people told the board the regulation would have a chilling effect on rooftop solar installations. Its actions conflict with the California Air Resources Board’s determination that at least double the amount of rooftop solar is needed to meet the state’s climate targets and the United States’ global agreement to triple renewable energy by 2030.

For-profit utilities across the country are spending tremendous resources lobbying decision-makers to gut rooftop solar and storage programs because distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar, threaten their bottom line.

The Center has challenged the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision to gut net metering, now pending before the California Supreme Court. On Monday the Center asked the commission to reconsider its May community solar decision, which will deny solar to the disadvantaged communities who would most benefit from it.

CalPIRG and the Solar Rights Alliance are represented in the litigation by the San Franciso public interest law firm Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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