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California Solar Rebates and Incentives

California Solar Initiative

The state of California offers a cash rebate, through utility companies, to customers who install solar power-generating equipment on their property. For smaller systems (under 50 kilowatts—which covers most residential systems), the state generally pays
Program Type State Rebate Program
Technologies Solar space heat, solar thermal electric, photovoltaics
Amount Dependent on system size
Required Documentation Verification of project cost, calculation of expected system output
Official Web Site http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/solar

 

The state of California through the California Solar Initiative (CSI) and its Go Solar California sites has offered a cash rebate or performance-based incentive through utility companies to customers who install solar power-generating equipment on their property. The difference is the cash rebate is based on expected performance, the performance-based incentive is paid out over time, based on actual system performance. 

As part of the RPS California mandated that all power utilities in California offer some form of rebate, though the terms and rates of rebates vary slightly from utility to utility. For customers of California’s three major utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, the rebate started at $2.50 per installed watt. It is significantly less at all of them now. As of September 2012 it’s between 20 and 35 cents per installed watt. You can check to see what your rebate should be at: CSI EPBB Calculator. There you can also check what your anticipated net-metering rate (performance-based incentive or PBI) will be for a system.

Getting the rebate for a photovoltaic system involves taking a few preliminary steps. First, you need an energy efficiency audit of your home in order to maximize the efficiency of what you already have. Second, find a solar installer registered with the California Energy Commission. They should apply for the incentive on your behalf. After the state informs you of approval you have a year to install or have the system installed. When that’s done, send in the paperwork and wait for the rebate to arrive.

Residential customers can also opt for the PBI, meaning you’ll get a monthly payment for five years based on how much power your system is actually generating. If you opt for the lump-sum rebate you can recoup up-front costs quicker, but you will not be paid the extra PBI incentive over the first five years. 

California also offers rebates for solar water heaters. A single-family home solar hot water heater that displaces a natural-gas-powered water heater, can receive a rebate of up to $1,875, one that displaces and electric water heater can receive up to $1,250. Solar hot water heaters can reduce water heating costs by 75 percent or more.