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San Diego Increases Solar Permit Fees

Every financial aspect of home solar power has come under the microscope recently, as environmentalists and industry leaders push hard to get solar on-par with fossil fuels. Unfortunately, there are a lot of economic obstacles to solar power, from manufacturing costs to intermittency to city and county permit fees to installation systems. The installation obstacle was the subject of a Sierra Club study last year, which discovered some staggering fees for several California cities.

That study resulted in quick action to reduce fees to a reasonable level, if not erase them altogether. So, some in southern California are finding it especially weird that San Diego would choose to buck the trend by increasing solar permit fees. The city upped charges from $93 to $500, noting that the increase was reflective of actual processing costs and could not be avoided.

The move has irked many solar enthusiasts in the area, but honestly (and assuming the honesty of the city of San Diego), there is little to be irked about. What was most staggering about the Sierra Club study was that it found several cities in which fees reached into the tens of thousands of dollars and were completely disproportionate to processing costs. $93 is borderline free compared to that, and $500 is at or barely above-average compared to other cities around the country. I know solar economics is a touchy issue, and anyway, to bring down up-front costs is key to widespread use, but reasonable is reasonable. And it looks to me like San Diego is being quite reasonable. No doubt, the city employees responsible for solar permits are busy folk. They do work for Calfornia’s statistical leader in solar rooftops.

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