The solar thermal industry celebrated the CPUC‘s unanimous approval of a much anticipated statewide solar water heating rebate program on Thursday, January 21, 2010. Under this new $350 million program called CSI-Thermal, gas and electric customers of PG&E, SCE and Southern California Edison Gas (SoCalGas) and SDG&E will be eligible to receive a rebate for installing qualified solar water heating systems starting May 1, 2010.
The program is expected to run through 2017 or until the money runs out. Homeowners and building owners with natural gas water heaters may receive up to $1,875 and $500,000 respectively. Homeowners and building owners with electric water heaters will receive a slightly smaller incentive of up to $1,250 and $250,000 respectively, as it is currently more cost-effective to install a solar water heater that offsets electricity usage. Incentives are greatest at the beginning of the program and will decrease in four steps over time. The program has aggressive goals of displacing 585 million therms of natural gas and 150 MW of electricity, which is approximately the equivalent of placing a solar water heater in 200,000 single-family homes. Solar thermal professionals are optimistic that the new CSI-Thermal rebate program will greatly support the growth of the industry and significantly increase the market penetration of solar thermal technology. The CSI Thermal Program will be administered by PG&E, SCE, SoCalGas and by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) in the SDG&E territory.