Rep. Lee, Colleagues Unveil Bill to Streamline Permitting for Residential Clean Energy Systems

December 9, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Susie Lee (Nev.-03), Paul D. Tonko (N.Y.-20), and Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.-01) announced last Friday, Dec. 6, the introduction of H.R. 5335, the American Energy Opportunity Act, which would provide the tools for local municipalities to streamline permitting processes for distributed energy systems. These systems include rooftop solar, small wind power, residential battery storage, hydrogen fuel cells, and level 2 electric vehicle charging.

“Southern Nevada has led the way in solar energy development and installation,” said Rep. Lee. “There is so much more opportunity to further develop renewable energy, yet some obstacles are slowing such development. Permitting and installing renewable energy systems is too expensive for many businesses and families. Distributed energy systems can help streamline and simplify solar energy permitting so more households and businesses can access affordable opportunities to make the switch to solar. This bipartisan bill helps both businesses and households save money while reducing our carbon footprint. What could be better?” 

“Distributed energy systems present numerous untapped opportunities for American households and the economy, yet high permitting costs and complicated installations are preventing many from making the investment,” said Rep. Tonko. “Standardizing this process and making installation more affordable would give Americans the freedom to choose their energy systems. The American Energy Opportunity Act cuts through the unnecessary red tape preventing households from generating their own electricity and helping to reduce their carbon footprints. Our bipartisan legislation will help consumers and businesses alike advance their clean energy agendas while saving thousands.” 

“This legislation is a critical bridge towards a more sustainable energy future,” said Rep. Fortenberry. “By streamlining the permit process for distributed energy systems, we create a powerful incentive for individuals to do the right thing.” 

“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.” 

“This legislation is a win for clean energy, a win for municipalities and a win for consumers,” said Alex McDonough, Vice President of Public Policy at Sunrun. “Speeding up the process to install solar and home batteries will generate more clean energy, more revenue for cities and counties and lower costs for consumers.” 

BACKGROUND: The American Energy Opportunity Act simplifies installation of distributed energy systems by:

  • Designating the National Distributed Energy Opportunity Council responsible for developing and maintaining a voluntary program for online permitting;
  • Empowering the Secretary of Energy to recognize and certify participating municipalities as “Energy Opportunity Communities” if they adopt and implement the model permitting protocol; and 
  • Authorizing $20 million annually through Fiscal Year 2025 to carry out directives. 

Advancements through research and development investments are already being made in the Department of Energy to reduce the costs of residential energy systems. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) began efforts to reduce the time and costs for permitting, inspecting, and interconnecting distributed solar and storage projects through standardization and online application systems. However, significant progress must still be made, as 18,000 local jurisdictions are responsible for rules and permitting systems in country and the soft costs of permitting keep installation prices inflated.