Another Banner Year for California Rooftop Solar as Successful Rebate Program Winds Down

Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released its annual progress report for the California Solar Initiative, and it’s more good news for solar in the Golden State. Some key takeaways include:

  • In 2012, the amount of solar installed on California’s rooftops in major territories grew by 391 MW — a 26 percent increase from the amount added in 2011.
  • As of the end of Q1 2013, an estimated 1,629 MW of rooftop solar have been installed, roughly equivalent to three traditional fossil fueled power plants — but clean and emission-free.
  • More than 160,000 individual systems have been installed. That’s a whole lot of California energy consumers taking control of their power supply and their energy bills.
  • Since 2007, the average installed cost of both residential and commercial systems has decreased by about a third.

The CSI was designed to do something remarkable: achieve scale and lower costs to make rooftop solar a real and growing part of the state’s energy landscape. The program was designed to automatically reduce the incentive level in ten “steps” based on target amounts of solar capacity in each utility service territory. As the solar market grew and achieved new economies of scale, the incentive levels dropped predictably down these steps, from $2.50 per watt to zero.

As indicated in yesterday’s report, the CSI is achieving those goals ahead of schedule. Residential incentives have dropped to zero for two of the three major utilities already, and demand shows no signs of slowing. We’ve seen especially strong adoption in low and middle income zip-codes in recent years, which is an exciting sign of the CSI’s success in making solar a mainstream option.

That means solar is delivering energy bill savings, public health benefits and economic benefits for all Californians, including those who need them most. Let’s not forget that at last count, solar jobs in the state numbered more than 43,000. We want to extend a big thank you to the California Legislature and the CPUC for their vision and leadership in creating the CSI, a program that is working even better than planned.

Now that California has built this new solar economy and the CSI is winding down, solar advocates are ready to clear the way for continued growth, which includes strong net metering rules and good local permitting practices.

This article was originally published on VoteSolar.org and was republished with permission.

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Susannah directs Vote Solar’s distributed solar advocacy efforts in California and other West Coast states. She has worked in California clean energy policy for over 15 years, holding prior positions as Senior Regulatory Analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission and Advisor to a Commissioner at the California Energy Commission. Susannah was one of the key architects of the first California Renewables Portfolio Standard enacted in 2002, which has since been expanded to a 50% renewables requirement by 2030. In 2015, she spearheaded a broad grassroots effort in support of preserving full credit for rooftop solar generation in California, resulting in letters from over 100 organizations and local elected leaders, and over 150,000 petitions sent from the public to the CPUC, by far the most public input the agency has ever received on any one issue. Susannah holds a Masters in Public Policy from UC Berkeley. In her free time, she loves singing harmonies and hiking in the green hills of the East Bay.

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