California state licensing board votes to allow only C-10 contractors to install solar and storage projects

The Contractor State Licensing Board (CSLB) voted 11-3 on July 28 to restrict and impede the lawful trade of 80% of California’s licensed solar contractors to continue installing solar and energy storage systems. This vote comes despite the board’s 40-year history of extensive testing as well as providing written permission for C-46 solar specialty contractors to install solar and energy storage systems and in the absence of identified incidents involving contractor error. 
 
The CSLB ruled that the C-10 license is the only specialty license eligible to install solar and energy storage systems. Unlike previous votes, this decision bypasses regulatory review and therefore goes into effect after 90 days. 
 
In 90 days, the C-46 license holder will no longer be allowed to install a solar and energy storage system in the state of California. Only 22% of the solar and storage installations in the past five years were done by contractors holding only a C-10 license. The majority are being installed by contractors who hold a C-46, with and without other licenses. 
 
Any contractor who holds a C-10 license must adhere to strict workforce hiring requirements: California rules require C-10 contractors to hire only Certified Electricians and registered electrical trainees on a one-to-one basis to perform all of their installation work. Failing to do so will risk having your license revoked. 
 
Contractors who hold a General A and/or General B license may continue to install solar and storage systems so long as the work falls within the legal classifications of those two licenses. Only an act of the state legislature can modify those two licenses. 
 
This decision goes into effect regardless of system size, customer type or technology. It applies to all energy storage systems, whether paired with solar PV or not.

Contractors holding a C-46 license may continue to install solar PV systems that are not paired with energy storage, but there’s an important wrinkle. The July 28 decision was based on a letter from the CSLB head registrar David Fogt to the UC Berkeley Labor Center on April 21, 2021. In that letter, Fogt states that all work performed by a contractor holding a C-10 license, regardless of the other licenses the contractor might also hold, must be done by Certified Electricians per state law. This determination, if correctly interpreted, could impact all solar PV installations, not just solar and storage projects. It could also impact several other trades such as HVAC. Such a deviation from common practice would greatly impact California’s move toward clean energy and building electrification. 

According to the report upon which this decision was made, the CSLB has defined the scope of work of electrical contractors as, “An electrical contractor places, erects or connects any electrical wires, fixtures, appliances, raceways conduits, solar photovoltaic cells or any part thereof, which generate, transmit, transform or utilize electrical energy in any form or for any purpose.”

A question for all contractors who hold a C-10, whether you employ Certified Electricians or not: What percentage of your crew must be a Certified Electrician or registered apprentice on a one-to-one basis for both your solar and your solar and storage projects. How does the state define “place” or “erect” an electrical appliance?
 
CALSSA is seeking clarification on the issues listed above as well as exploring legal options for challenging this underground regulation.

News item from CALSSA