Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
About the California Solar Initiative
- What customers are eligible for the California Solar Initiative program?
- How much are the rebates? What types of rebates are available?
- How do I apply for California Solar Initiative incentives?
- How do I find a solar installer I can trust?
- I'm interested in a solar water heating system. Can I get incentives for this?
- Which solar technologies are covered under California Solar Initiative?
- How much are application fees?
- Are there classes offered?
- When I get my solar system installed, will I be "off-grid?"
- How can I provide feedback or make suggestions to change the CSI Program?
What customers are eligible for the California Solar Initiative program?All electric customers of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are eligible to apply for California Solar Initiative incentives. This includes residential homeowners, commercial, industrial and agricultural enterprises, and local governments and non-profit organizations. The day-to-day administrative policy and activities, including application processing and incentive payment, are handled by a Program Administrator for each of the three Investor-Owned Utilities:
- Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)
- Southern California Edison (SCE)
- California Center for Sustainable Energy (for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) territory)
See the contacts page for websites and contact information. Additionally, homeowners who qualify for low income housing programs may apply for incentives under the CSI Single-family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) or the CSI Multi-family Affordable Solar Housing (MASH).
How much are the rebates? What types of rebates are available?
Please see the "Rebates Page" for latest information. California Solar Initiative Rebates vary according to system size, customer class, and performance and installation factors. The subsidies automatically decline in "steps" based on the volume of MW of confirmed incentive reservations issued within each utility service territory. There are two incentive paths available to consumers: Expected Performance Based Buydown (EPBB) and Performance Based Incentive (PBI.)
How do I apply for California Solar Initiative incentives?
Applicants who are ready to reserve their application can use the online application tool called Powerclerk.
How do I find a solar contractor I can trust?
Please see the "Solar Installers and Contractors" database. Installers are required to register with the Energy Commission's Retailers/Installers List annually. Except for those systems that are self-installed, all systems must be installed by appropriately licensed California contractors in accordance with rules and regulations adopted by the California Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB.) Installation contractors must have an active A,B,C-10, or C-46 license for photovoltaic (PV) systems. All systems must be installed in conformance with the manufacturer's specifications and with all applicable electrical and building code standards.
Qualified contractors are your key to getting the most productive PV system for your home or business. Choose a reputable installer by interviewing at least three potential installers and obtain bids before making your selection. In addition to the Go Solar California list, customers can check for information about their contractor with the California State Licensing Board (CSLB), the Better Business Bureau, the California Solar Energy Industries Association, or other consumer information websites.
I'm interested in a solar water heating system. Can I get incentives for this?
Yes. See our section on Solar Watering Heating.
Which solar technologies are covered under California Solar Initiative?
California Solar Initiative rebates are available for solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies (roof-mounted, ground-mounted and building-integrated PV) non-PV electric displacing systems (solar water heaters, solar space heating, and solar cooling systems), and non-PV electric generating systems (dish sterling, solar troughs, dish and lens, and concentrating solar systems of up to 1MW). CSI-Thermal rebates are available for solar hot water systems that displace electricity or natural gas usage.
How much are application fees?
There is no application fee for residential projects and other projects less than 10kW. For non-residential applications larger than 10kW, the application fee is a standardized amount based on the following system size criteria:
This fee applies to both EPBB and PBI applicants. The application fee must be paid within 30 days of the Reservation Request to activate the application.
Applications received without payment will be cancelled. If a project is withdrawn or cancelled after receiving a reservation, the Host Customer will forfeit the application fee.
Application fees will be returned in full to the Host Customer if, upon eligibility screening, the project does not qualify for the California Solar Initiative Program. If a project that has received an Incentive Claim Form from the Program Administrator is withdrawn due to extenuating circumstances beyond the applicant's control, the application fee may be returned pending a discussion and agreement of the Program Administrators. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Are there classes offered in solar PV systems?
Monthly workshops are held throughout the state, hosted by the California Solar Initiative Program Administrators. Program Administrators also offer classes for residents, and specialty courses on a range of topics related to the California Solar Initiative, solar energy systems and energy efficiency.
Check our online calendar or with your Program Administrator for classes on solar in your area:
- Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)
- Southern California Edison (SCE)
- Center for Sustainable Energy (for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) territory)
See the contacts page for websites and contact information.
When I get my California Solar Initiative-funded solar system installed, will I be "off-grid?"
No. The California Solar Initiative Program only provides incentives to grid-connected solar systems, thus California Solar Initiative participants are not off-grid; rather, their systems produce energy that flows back onto the grid, which they conversely draw from whenever their systems are not generating energy. Grid-tied solar electric systems are not typically designed to provide back-up power when there is an electrical outage.
How can I provide feedback or make suggestions to change the CSI Program?
Each quarter, the CSI Program hosts a Program Forum to take stakeholder input on the program. Click here for information about the next CSI Program Forum, as well as archives of previous forums.
The California Solar Initiative is overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission. If you are interested in information about the CPUC's regulatory process, click here. To track regulatory activities at the Commission, join the Service List.