California Solar Initiative: Financial Incentives for Installing a Solar System

by Robin Yeager on 05/27/2009

in California Solar Law, Green Education/Training

For all their inexcusable faults, our Legislature is doing one thing right: enacting laws designed to make our state a livable place for us and future generations.

Senate Bill 1 (2006), aka the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, and the California Public Utilities Commission authorized the California Solar Initiative (CSI) with the goal of installing 3,000 megawatts (MW) of new solar systems by 2017.

According to Southern California Edison, you can expect to pay anywhere from $6-$12/watt depending on the system design, location and construction. In Southern California, I’ve been told $8/watt is a reasonable estimate. These numbers translate into a total system cost of $20,000 and up.

Two types of state financial incentives are available to homeowners and businesses that install a new solar system: Expected Performance Based Buy Down (EPBB) and Performance Based Incentives (PBI). The incentives are funded by a use tax on our utility bills, which means the state’s budget mess won’t limit their availability.

Most residential owners choose the EPBB, which is paid upfront once the system is installed and approved. Owners of systems supplying more than 50 kW must use the PBI incentive, which is paid monthly over five years.

If you’re considering installing a solar system on your roof, you can get a rough idea of the available incentives for installing the system via the CSI calculator. Incentive payments are structured so that they will decline as a certain number of megawatts are installed statewide. To see where we are now, check out the statewide MW Trigger Tracker.

The solar installer, who must be a licensed California contractor, typically handles the burdensome paper work required by the PUC and the utility.

If you’d like more in-depth information on the CSI, Southern California Edison offers workshops in Irwindale and via the web. SCE also is offering homeowner information sessions (HSIS) at various locations. The California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego also offers solar workshops for homeowners.

For information on incentives for every state, including California, check out DSIRE’s new solar site.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post: California Solar Law: Mandatory Warranties

Next post: Builders Get a Reprieve until 2010 on California’s Tougher New Building Efficiency Standards