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Solar Energy Research

California has two programs that fund research into solar energy systems: the PIER Program and the CSI Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment Plan.

PIER Logo

Public Interest Energy Research Program

The Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program was created in 1996 as part of the electricity industry deregulation efforts and is run by the California Energy Commission. Funding for the program comes from the public goods charge on electricity and natural gas bills. The Commission Research and Development Division administers a total of $83.5 million annually - $62.5 million for electricity and $21 million for natural gas.

PIER Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) efforts in the renewable energy area are focused on four objectives:

  1. Making improvements at existing renewable energy facilities to help provide peak capacity and increased reliability to California's electricity system.
  2. Expanding renewable distributed generation technologies to help provide electricity generation in high-demand, high-congestion areas.
  3. Developing renewable energy technologies, products, and services that provide electricity customers with more affordable electricity, improved reliability, and a selection of choices.
  4. Conducting longer term research on advanced renewable technologies that will help meet tomorrow's electricity needs.

Research reports from the PIER Projects are available online in two areas:

PIER research solicitations are issued regularly and can be found on the Energy Commission website at: www.energy.ca.gov/contracts/pier.html.


CSI Research, Development, and Deployment Plan

The second was created by the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and is called the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment (RDD&D) Plan. The CSI RDD&D Program has a budget of $50 million, running through 2016; or roughly nine million dollars per year. The program is managed by Itron, Inc. under the auspices of the CPUC and managed by Pacific Gas & Electric. They have created a website for this program at: www.calsolarresearch.org/.

The goal of the CSI RRD&D Plan is to help build a sustainable and self-supporting industry for customer-sited solar in California. To achieve this, the legislature authorized the CPUC to allocate $50 million of the California Solar Initiative budget to focus on:

The CPUC released its first round of research grants in March 2010.

More information is available online at: www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/Solar/rdd.htm