Step 5: Claim your incentive
Once your system has been purchased, installed, and put into operation, you will submit your Incentive Claim Form and supporting documentation, including a verification of project cost and a calculation of the expected system output. The program administrator will verify that your system has been connected to the grid before sending your CSI incentive payment.
When will I receive my payment?
If your system is smaller than 50 kilowatts (kW) and you opt to take the EPBB payment, you will receive one up-front payment after your application has been approved and you have shown proof of payment to your program administrator. The majority of program applicants receive their incentive payment within 60 days of submitting their incentive claim form.
If your system is larger than 50 kW, or you opt to take the PBI payment, you will receive your payment in monthly installments stretching out over five years. This payment will be based directly upon the amount of power your system produces every month.
Remember to claim your federal tax credit!
In addition to cash back incentives from the state of California, homeowners and businesses that purchase and install solar photovoltaic systems are also eligible for federal tax rebates (used IRS form 5695). Current federal law allows homeowners to claim tax credits for 30 percent of the cost of their solar PV system. Businesses are entitled to claim tax credits for 10 percent of the cost of their system with no cap. To take advantage of these valuable incentives, make sure to keep copies of all documentation related to the purchase and installation of your system.
Will I be paid for the excess electricity I generate?
Because your solar energy system will produce more power than you need at some times and less than you need at others, solar system owners need a way to store the power they generate so they can use it at night and other times when they need more juice than their system is making. California's Net Energy Metering law allows owners of solar panels to use the electricity grid as a battery to store power from their panels when they are not using it and then reclaim that power later when they need it.
Under the Net Energy Metering law (Public Utilities Code 2827), the total amount of energy produced over one year is credited against the total amount of energy consumed. If your solar system produced exactly as much power in a year as you consume, your bill for that year will be zero, even if there are times when you are consuming more than you produce. Your utility may still charge you a minimum service connection fee, sometimes on the order of $5, regardless of your net metering bill credits.
If you produce more power over a one-year period than you consume, however, you will not be paid for the excess power, nor will your credits for the power you generate be carried over into the next year. For this reason, it is important to make sure your system is sized properly so that it offsets the power you consume but does not produce a net surplus of power in the long run. The law was designed this way to discourage people from using state subsidies to enter the business of generating and selling power.
What about Renewable Energy Credits?
As the owner of renewable generation, you are the owner of Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs, associated with the production of your renewable energy. In short, a REC represents the environmental value of the energy produced by your renewable energy system. The California Energy Commission maintains an accounting system that records and issues certificates of proof that one unit of electricity was generated and delivered by a renewable energy resource.
When you own a solar PV system, you own the RECs for the electricity you generate, and you have the right to decide to keep or sell them. Receipt of CSI incentives does not require you to transfer or sell your RECs. RECs may or may not have monetary value in the future in California, depending on policy and market factors. Be sure to read all of the terms of your installation contract to see if it requires you to sell or transfer your RECs as a condition of installation. As the owner of your RECs, you do not need to agree to any contract language that requires you to sell or transfer your RECs.