Once again, California is leading the way for solar hot water with a new solar thermal incentive, this time for low-income single-family properties and multi-family dwellings.
California’s original CSI Thermal rebate program was introduced in 2010 and is perhaps the most generous solar water heating rebate program in the United States, offering up to $500,000 for commercial properties and up to $1,875 for individual homeowners.
Now, California’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) has introduced another incentive that targets low-income housing and individuals. Called “The CSI-Thermal Low-Income Program”, the goal is pretty self-explanatory.
In terms of numbers, the low-income program provides customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) with up to $3,750 in rebates—double the regular rebate.
For multi-family dwellings, such as apartment buildings, nursing homes, and assisted living homes, owners can receive up to $500,000. The top figure differs from the regular program in that owners will receive a 50 percent higher rebate for the natural gas displaced by the solar system.
Therefore, while the maximum amount is the same, a 10 collector solar thermal system under the low-income CSI thermal program is going to receive up to $19.23 per Therm displaced, whereas the same 10 collectors will receive up to $12.82 per Therm displaced in the regular CSI Thermal program.
Those are the highest rates. As the program grows and more installations come online, the rebate amount will decrease for both programs, and, in theory, so will the price of installing solar water heating systems. (You can keep track for the current CSI Thermal rebate level here.)
Of course, there are substantial requirements for properties to qualify under the CSI Thermal low-income program. You can download a summary of the eligibility requirements here. In addition, installers must be approved by CSI to actually quallify for the rebate, and unfortunately, there are few that do, as noted in a previous post.
On top of the new rebate, owners of low-income rental properties—whether single family rentals or multi-family—are also eligible for the Federal government’s 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC).
Combined, these federal and state financial incentives should help to inspire more solar hot water installations in California, which still lags behind PV. In fact, the traditional CSI Thermal program began in the fall of 2010, and the program still hasn’t burned through its top rebate step. So, there’s still plenty of work to do to get the solar hot water word out.
Free Hot Water is a manufacturer and distributor of high quality solar hot water systems for commercial and residential applications. Browse our catalog of over 1200 products at www.shop.freehotwater.com or create an account to become a FHW certified installer.
Photo: Flickr/Ken Lund
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