united states senate podium
Photo: iStock.com/mphillips007

Senators Susan Collins and Martin Heinrich have presented a bill before the Senate that would create smoother processes for solar projects along with $20 million per year for the industry for the next five years.

The bill, titled the “American Energy Opportunity Act of 2019”, was introduced on Sept. 9 and referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, according to congressional records.

Collins said in a statement that the bill’s focus on solar energy helps the fight against climate change and will focus on municipal-level permitting processes.

“The American Energy Opportunity Act would help spur the adoption of this technology by providing beneficial tools to streamline the permitting process at the municipal level, which will help drive down the hidden costs of installing rooftop solar. This bill, coupled with the BEST Act we introduced earlier this year to promote next-generation energy storage, holds the potential to unleash the promise of clean, renewable energy throughout the country.”Collins said.

Bill Calls for Board to Make Decisions About Permitting, Inspections

One of the integral parts of the bill is a section that requires the Secretary of Energy to appoint a “Distributed Energy Opportunity Board” within 180 days of the bill’s enactment.

This board will, “carry out a program to streamline the process for local permitting and inspection of qualifying distributed energy systems,” according to the bill.

The board will be responsible for crafting certifications for distributed energy installers, too.

The bill closes with a call for the Secretary of Energy to provide $20 million per year from the program from 2019 to 2024.

Heinrich: Current Permitting Requirements Are an Inefficient “Patchwork” 

The goal of the bill is to give a boost of efficiency to what is otherwise a cumbersome process.

These types of inefficiencies cannot be tolerated as the country moves toward an energy future dependent on distributed energy resources and renewables, Heinrich said in a statement.

“If we truly want economical clean energy at a local level, we need to streamline the permitting process for distributed energy technologies like rooftop solar,” Heinrich said. “The current patchwork of permitting requirements across local jurisdictions causes delays and increases costs for both local governments and the businesses and homeowners who want to build smaller-scale renewable energy systems.”

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