Why Solar? Explaining the California Solar Initiative

As we continue our time on this planet, sustainable energy becomes more critical in the effort to protect the health of the Earth. California has worked hard in recent years to change the way the state generates and uses energy. Solar energy as a viable alternative has become more and more common as time goes by. By employing incentive programs such as the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the state has helped foster adoption of solar energy and promoted its use through residential and commercial applications.

Sunset by the beach

Why solar energy?

Solar energy is a renewable alternative to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases, which have been proven to have a detrimental effect on the Earth’s climate. Solar energy helps tip the scale back in a positive direction, and assists individuals in their efforts to participate in a healthier, more sustainable future.

The power generated by solar is no different than the power you receive from your local utility company. Solar systems connect directly to your utility panel or circuit breaker box and function in the same capacity. Just like any electricity system, your solar system must meet building codes and you must have all applicable permits in order to be in compliance with local law.

Unlike fossil fuels that must be mined or extracted, solar energy is much less expensive and less dangerous to acquire, transport, and use. Solar energy is also an unlimited resource. No matter how much solar energy we consume over time, we cannot deplete the unlimited stores of this available source of energy. Coal, natural gas, and petroleum are all limited resources that can eventually become depleted as we continue to exploit them. Fossil fuels can also be damaging to the environment during transport and combustion, adding to growing concerns about the global climate crisis.

What is the California Solar Initiative?

The California Solar Initiative, launched in 2007, is a beneficial solar rebate program for California consumers. Overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which includes Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), this program provides rebates and up-front incentives for customers who install solar systems within their residential homes. The initiative also includes incentives for new commercial, industrial, non-profit, agricultural, and government properties. This program is an important component of the Go Solar California campaign, which encourages residents to install at least 3,000 megawatts of solar energy systems by the end of 2016, and 585 million therms of solar hot water systems by the end of 2017.

The Go Solar program provides a centralized collection of solar education intended to help consumers find information about available solar programs, collectible credits, rebates, individual eligibility, and ways to get started and locate their local licensed solar contractors.

In addition to CSI, the Go Solar program also encompasses the California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership. This partnership provides financial incentives to encourage the implementation of solar energy systems during new residential construction projects.

Encompassed in the CSI program are four additional subcomponents. These include:

Who is eligible for the CSI program and how do I apply?

Almost every residential, commercial, government, and non-profit customer is eligible for solar energy incentives. To apply, an individual must complete a free energy efficiency audit. A solar contractor can then help you determine the best system for your building, issue an Incentive Reservation Request Form, and submit it to one of the CPUC entities for review. Once approved and installed, you or your contractor will fill out an Incentive Claim Form and submit it for payment. The program pays consumers either all at once or over a course of five years, depending on the size of the solar system implemented. Incentives are intended to be reviewed and approved within 30 days of submission.

Be sure to contact an eligible solar contractor to better understand your solar capabilities.

How do I know how much I will save?

The Go Solar program helps consumers estimate the benefits by offering a Clean Power Estimator. This is an online software program that provides residential and commercial customers with a personalized estimate of the cost and benefits of implementing a solar energy system. By using customer-specific information, an estimate can be provided based on consumer-specific variables. You can find this Clean Power Estimator by navigating to: www.cec.cleanpowerestimator.com/cec.htm.

That monthly electric bill isn’t the only place solar energy consumers will save. Solar panels add to the resale value of residential homes, are incredibly reliable (lowering a homeowner’s cost of routine and costly repairs) and can produce clean energy for up to 25 years.

Where can I find more information?

Consumers can find everything they need to get started to switch to solar energy on the Go Solar program’s informative website: www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov. Getting in touch with a qualified contractor will also help you navigate the initiative.

Moving to solar can drastically reduce electricity bills, greatly increase home values, protect against increases in conventional electricity costs, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce each household’s carbon footprint, and offer each consumer the ability to boost their sustainable energy consumption.

Some program incentive levels are based on the performance of the customer’s solar panels, which also helps to support the best use of solar energy alternatives and increase the rewards of the program for both the customer and the climate. With a budget of over two billion dollars, the CSI program offers customers the ability to make active and affordable changes and take charge of their energy usage.

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