Conflicting Progress Reports for the California Solar Initiative

All eyes have been on California to see if the state’s new solar program will live up to high expectations. Now, as the California Solar Initiative (CSI) moves into it’s fourth quarter of implementation, there are two different accounts of how the program is fairing — one that is optimistic about current and future development and one that paints a worrying picture for the industry.

In mid-September, the consulting firm SunCentric released a report titled, California Solar Initiative – Triumph or Trainwreck? which raised concerns about the sustainability of the state’s solar industry under the CSI. According to the report, because of rapidly falling rebate levels, poor data management and overall complexity of the program, the residential and commercial sectors have come to a standstill.

At the end of September, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released their CSI progress report, which seemed to contradict the SunCentric findings. According to the CPUC report, “demand is booming,” with new applications for over 160 megawatts of residential and commercial solar projects already submitted this year. All of the applications together equal about $320 million in incentives.

But a new report from SunCentric projects that, because the highest incentives have already been used up, demand in the residential and commercial sectors will fall flat. According to SunCentric, with dropout rates high in the commercial sector, much of the expected development will not happen. In addition, many of the CSI’s residential applications now being approved are coming from the administrative backlog built up since July and not from new applications, say the report’s authors.

The CPUC and California Energy Commission (CEC) have held numerous forums for the solar industry to try to make the program better. But many people in the industry don’t believe the administrators have gone far enough to address their concerns. In the meantime, the industry has held some of it’s own forums to try to address the perceived problems with the program.

After holding a series of CSI Survivor Seminars this past February, SunCentric is holding a webinar on November 2nd to discuss the CSI’s current and projected impact on California’s solar industry. The CPUC and CEC will also continue to hold discussions with the industry. To stay informed on any CSI administrative forums, rebate changes and program announcements, visit the Go Solar California website.

The debate over the effectiveness of the CSI will surely continue well into the future. To get a look at the differing interpretations of the program data, see the links provided below.


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