California could restrict who can install energy storage

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On August 6, the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) will hold a vote which could have serious consequences for the largest residential energy storage market in the nation. In specific, CSLB is considering restricting the ability of solar installers who hold a C-46 solar installation license, but not a C-10 electrical license, to install batteries.

California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA) issued an action alert yesterday afternoon, calling on its members to come to Sacramento and fight the proposal to restrict battery installations. “We need you and your colleagues to attend this hearing to voice opposition to this decision and to protect the solar and storage market going forward,” reads the alert.

In an interview with pv magazine, CALSSA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro was explicit about the danger that this represents:

If there is a restriction of trade here in California eliminating the most prolific of the contractors – the solar contractor – at installing what they’ve been installing for 40 years, that’s going to have really catastrophic impacts on on the market.

 

Safety issues?

As everyone who reads the news or has boarded a flight knows, lithium-ion batteries can enter a dangerous state where the heat buildup gets out of control. And while improper installation can cause problems, research by pv magazine suggests that most instances of thermal runaway are the result of poorly designed software with inadequate safety controls.

CALSSA argues that two and a half years of public hearings and reports have not turned up evidence of a safety risk to justify the proposed changes. Instead, it alleges that CSLB is considering this change due to pressure from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), with support from the state’s investor-owned utilities.

Whether or not these specific accusations are accurate, utilities across the nation have consistently worked to kill rooftop solar markets. In California, the shift to mandatory time-of-use rates under Net Metering 2.0 created an incentive to pair solar with storage. And if utilities can restrict how many workers can install these systems, this will inevitably have effects not only on the behind-the-meter battery storage market, but also the rooftop solar market in the state.

pv magazine will provide additional coverage of this vote next Tuesday.