The California Solar Initiative is the state’s groundbreaking program to encourage rooftop solar power installation. In an important milestone, more than a gigawatt’s worth of solar panels have been installed on California rooftops since the program was established in 2007.
The CSI promotes rooftop solar by offering incentives and rebates for customers of California’s three major investor owned utilities when they install solar units. This policy, called net-metering, reduces the utility bills of ratepayers as compensation for the power generated by their solar units. While the rebates decline over time, they are designed to encourage consumers to add rooftop solar units to their homes. So far the policy has been successful.
According to the California Public Utilities Commission, the CSI’s tally of new rooftop solar power reached 1,066 megawatts at the end of December. This means CSI is more than halfway toward its goal of 1,940 megawatts of solar by 2017.
The policy of net-metering is creating demand for rooftop solar in moderate and low income neighborhoods, as well as other areas around California. This demand is helping expand the solar industry in general and creating thousands of new jobs for Californians as solar organizations work to meet the demand.
When the current program meets its goal, CSI funded solar projects will provide enough power generating capacity to supply about 5 percent of a typical summer day’s peak statewide energy demand. This is a good first start, but in order to reach California’s ultimate goal of a solar future, more is needed.