COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders: What Solar Companies Need to Know
Across the country, states have begun issuing “Shelter in Place” or “Stay at Home” orders, directing residents to stay in their homes to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health. Although each of these orders is different, they generally allow for residents and businesses to continue essential activities and business operations. The solar industry ensures critical electric generation infrastructure to U.S. utilities, businesses and homes nationwide, and installations can be done safely in accordance with federal and state guidance. Nonetheless, it is imperative that the solar industry do its part to protect public health and follow the intent and spirit of these orders. As states begin to re-open their economies, SEIA will revisit this guidance.
Below you will find links to the orders that have been issued to date, and general guidelines solar companies can follow. We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available. Help SEIA continue to improve this guidance by responding to our survey, and emailing [email protected] and [email protected] with any examples of how and why solar workers provide critical infrastructure.
Note: the information provided here is not legal advice, and companies should review shelter in place and similar orders where they operate with their legal teams.
What does SEIA recommend with respect to state “Shelter in Place” or “Stay at Home” orders? Is solar installation/construction considered an essential activity?
- Each state order is different. Solar companies doing business in a state where a “Shelter in Place” or similar order has been issued should have legal counsel immediately review the order.
- Companies should pay close attention to “essential services,” “essential workers,” and “essential operations” described in the order to determine whether your business activities qualify. Many states are issuing guidance on this determination.
- Companies should keep in mind the spirit and intent of these orders, which is to limit non-essential movement of persons outside their homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health.
- Companies and their legal counsel should review the federal guidance from the Department of Homeland Security for additional information on what may be considered “essential” services and business activities. To the extent that federal and state or local guidance differ, companies should follow the more restrictive rule.
- To the extent that companies continue work, employers should follow the CDC’s guidance, social distancing recommendations and workplace safety protocols. SEIA has developed a resource guide for installers, with links to additional guidance from government entities and other third parties. Employers have a general duty to protect employees from the recognized hazard of COVID-19 infection,.
Should my company engage in door-to-door sales in states that have limited public gatherings?
- SEIA recommends that companies avoid door-to-door sales at this time, particularly in states that have limited public gatherings or have asked residents to stay at home. Companies also need to consider any state or local ordinances restricting home solicitations. In addition, consumers likely wish to minimize in-person interactions with others. Bring sales online or by telephone. Tell us how doing so affects your business.
- We have developed guidance regarding the residential solar permitting process, in light of social distancing measures.
What is SEIA doing to ensure that solar installation, construction, and maintenance is included in definitions of "essential services," or qualify as an exception, i.e., as a low risk/low density economic activity that can continue with social distancing protocols?
- SEIA is deeply engaged in policy discussions at the federal level and in a dozen states across the nation. Our team is working with policymakers in each of our priority states to secure the best outcome possible for member companies.
- We are developing talking points (see below) and a state-by-state advocacy plan to ensure that solar companies can continue doing business to the maximum extent feasible and consistent with protecting public health, including the health of our workers.
- You can help. Fill out SEIA’s COVID-19 Survey to share information, and practice social distancing and best practice protocols in your business activities.
How can we best make our case to policymakers that solar installation and construction should be allowed to continue?
- The U.S. Solar and storage industries, including manufacturers, suppliers, developers, builders and installers is a multi-billion dollar industry, employing roughly 250,000 workers, that provides critical electric generation infrastructure to U.S. utilities, businesses and homes nationwide.
- The country cannot stop constructing new electric generation capacity, of which solar is now the largest resource. 40% of new electric generation in 2019 came from solar generation. According to EIA, 76% of planned electricity generation additions will come from wind and solar. Solar workers build and maintain critical infrastructure that helps keep the lights on.
- Solar sales, installation and construction can be performed safely, pursuant to OSHA and CDC Guidance. Solar installers, EPCs, O&M and construction companies can and have implemented social distancing protocols and best practices on the job, including rooftop installations.
- Distributed solar generation provides electric service to the dwellings and businesses to which it is interconnected, and with a storage component can provide resilience, prevent blackouts and supply electricity to mission critical infrastructure during emergency situations. Distributed solar can also bring an added benefit of reducing increases to peak demand, which becomes especially important with more people staying at home.
- Similarly, municipalities and building departments are finding ways to continue their work remotely or with non-contact aides and tools. SEIA is monitoring how permitting and inspections are continuing or establishing other means to keep solar and construction activities continuing.
How are utilities around the country treating interconnection and other work - essential or non-essential?
- Electric utility workers are classified as essential under the DHS Guidance.
- SEIA will be working with utilities and regulators to keep interconnection processes moving, and to seek extensions to interconnection customer deadlines as appropriate.
- At least one major utility has stated that it “anticipates social distancing policies and response to the virus will also impact distributed solar interconnection requests eventually."
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidance on critical infrastructure workers has been revised several times, most recently on April 17. The revised list of energy and electricity workers includes several provisions relevant to the solar industry:
- Workers supporting the energy sector, regardless of the energy source (including but not limited to nuclear, fossil, hydroelectric, or renewable), segment of the system, or infrastructure the worker is involved in, or who are needed to monitor, operate, engineer, and maintain the reliability, safety, environmental health, and physical and cyber security of the energy system, including those who support construction, manufacturing, transportation, permitting, and logistics
- Workers supporting the energy sector through renewable energy infrastructure (including, but not limited to wind, solar, biomass, hydrogen, ocean, geothermal, and/or hydroelectric) and microgrids, including those supporting construction, manufacturing, transportation, permitting, operation/maintenance, monitoring, and logistics
- Workers who maintain, ensure, or restore, or are involved in the development, transportation, fuel procurement, expansion, or operation of the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power, including call centers, utility workers, engineers, retail electricity, constraint maintenance, and fleet maintenance technicians who cannot perform their duties remotely
- Workers at fossil fuel (including but not limited to natural gas, refined, distillate, and/or coal), nuclear, and renewable energy infrastructure (including, but not limited to wind, solar, biomass, hydrogen, geothermal, and/or hydroelectric microgrids), including those supporting construction, manufacturing, transportation, permitting, operation/maintenance, monitoring, and logistics
The list “is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered to be, a federal directive or standard. . . . Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion.”
Click on your state below to access the latest information on statewide stay-at-home and re-opening orders for business activity. Please keep in mind that local orders may supersede state-level directives. Some local orders are detailed below the map.
- Governor Newsom has issued a statewide Shelter-in-Place order.
- On April 29, the Public Health Officials of the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara released a new shelter-in-place order that will go into effect on May 4. The same order was also issued in the city of Berkeley, which has a health department separate from Alameda County. It largely keeps the current restrictions in place while loosening some restrictions on businesses such as construction. According to the local orders linked below, construction projects of all sizes will be permitted, with safety protocols that will depend on the size of the project.
- Santa Clara
- Contra Costa
- San Francisco
- San Mateo
- SEIA recommends that companies that may wish to continue installation or construction of solar and/or solar + storage projects review local orders in consultation with their legal counsel before proceeding, and follow any direct instructions received from local officials.
- In Santa Clara, under the April 29th extended order, business that install solar, storage, and/or EV charging systems may continue to operate. This is permissible construction activity and must comply with the Construction Project Safety Protocols in Appendix B-1 and Appendix B-2 of the Order. Businesses may also operate to manufacture distributed energy resource components, like solar panels.
- On April 29, Sacramento also extended the local stay at home order. The order will be extended until May 22, and the decision comes just a day after neighboring El Dorado County announced it would let its stay-at-home directive expire.
- Los Angeles – a March 19 Safer-at-Home Order requires residents to isolate themselves in their residences and businesses to cease operations, except as specified, including to work on essential infrastructure.
- Many other California counties such as Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado issued similar Shelter-in-Place Orders preceding the Governor’s statewide order on March 21.
City of Gainesville and all of Alachua County issued a Stay at Home Order on March 23rd. The order exempts ongoing construction, electrical production and distribution services, and businesses employing 5 or less persons.
Boston & Cambridge – bans on construction until further notice. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is asking solar firms to immediately cease door-to-door campaigns and has asked SEIA to inform its member companies.
City of Charlotte and all of Mecklenburg County issued a Shelter in Place Order on March 24th. The order exempts construction, electrical power generation, distribution, and production of raw materials.
Tarrant County issued a declaration with limitations on gatherings and social business restrictions. The Declaration does not apply to businesses providing Essential Services.
- National Conference of State Legislatures
- Legislative Status Tracker
- State Actions in Response to COVID-19
- National Governor's Association
- State Responses to COVID-19
- National Association of Manufacturers
- COVID-19 State Resources