To: Local Inspectors of Wires
From: The Board of State Examiners of Electricians
Date issued: October 26, 2012
Re: Massachusetts Electricians Licensing Requirements for PV System Installations

 GUIDANCE MEMORANDUM

At its regularly scheduled public meeting on, October 22, 2012, the Board of State Examiners of Electricians (the “Board”) issued the following guidance to local inspectors of wires.  This guidance memorandum amends and supersedes the memorandum issued on September 27, 2012. 

In light of the recent Court Decision in Suffolk Superior Court ( John Carroll, et al. v. Massachusetts Board of State Examiners of Electricians, C.A. No. 10-3408 pdf format of Carroll Decision ), the Board issues this guidance memorandum to clarify how the ruling relates to the advertising, installation, and oversight of Photovoltaic System (“PV System”) installations.

  WHAT DID NOT CHANGE

The Court in Carroll recognized that “the delivery by a PV System of electricity, and the installation appurtenant to that delivery, falls within the business that must be licensed pursuant to the first paragraph of [G.L. c. 141, § 1A].”  The Court went on to say that “[i]f a person is not ‘engaged in the business’ of the electrical work described in the first paragraph of § 1A, the licensure requirement does not apply so long as the person employs or contracts for the electrical work described in the first paragraph.”  Therefore, pursuant to the Court’s decision, general contractors who advertise and contract for PV installations have to subcontract with licensed electricians.  Like in all other electrical installations, an electrical permit can only be pulled by a licensed electrician or electrical contractor.

WHAT CHANGED

The Court in Carroll ruled that because there were so many tasks associated with PV installations that were non-electrical, general contractors were not engaging in the business of electrical work when they advertised and contracted for a PV installation, as long as they subcontracted with a licensed electrician to perform the electrical work on that installation.  Therefore, the advertising and subcontracting of the installation of PV Systems are not activities that are subject to regulation by the Board. 

WHAT IS ELECTRICAL WORK ON PV INSTALLATIONS

In its filings before the Court, the Board argued that, consistent with G.L. c. 141, §1A and the Massachusetts Electrical Code, the installation and interconnection of all PV System components, along with the grounding and bonding of all normally non-current carrying metal parts, constitutes electrical work.  (See Articles 690.43 and 250 of the Massachusetts Electrical Code.)  However, the Court neither embraced nor rejected the Board’s position.  Instead, the Court held that:  “The exact point at which general contractors must subcontract with a licensed electrician should be decided on a case-by-case basis and may be enforced through individual proceedings.”  

The Board has interpreted the law and the electrical code to require that a solar photovoltaic system, as defined by 527 CMR 12.00, Article 690.2 and associated apparatus such as, but not limited to, frames, racks, rails and modules must be assembled and installed by a licensed electrician.  Some types of work such as drilling holes in a roof and attaching footers to a building structure does not constitute electrical work. There are some areas, however, that this Board must consider further before issuing further policy guidance. 

The applicable statutes and regulations continue to govern any situation with respect to electrical work.  This statement may be modified, altered, and/or amended by the Board.