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California Solar Initiative Solar Thermal Incentives Program 2010-17

CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives launch January 2010 with up to $1,875 for residential solar thermal systems.

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The California Solar Initiative Solar Thermal Program launched January 20th, 2010,

The climate-change fighting, energy efficiency California Statewide solar water heating rebate program, called "CSI-Thermal" seeks to place @200,000 solar water heaters in California in its single family and multi-family program that runs through 2017.

Applications will be accepted April 1, 2010.

The CSI - Thermal program is being developed and is expected to run from April 2010 through 2017. A 30 percent federal tax credit is also available on the installed cost of the system less the rebate.

The goals of the CSI Thermal Program are to:

  • Significantly increase the size of the solar water heating market in California by increasing the adoption rate of solar water heating technologies, including achieving:

  • Installation of natural gas-displacing systems that displace 585 million therms, equivalent to placing a solar water heater on 200,000 single-family homes;

  • Installation of electric-displacing solar water heating systems that displace 275.7 million kilowatt-hours per year of electricity by the end of 2017; and

  • Expansion of the market for other solar thermal technologies that displace natural gas and electricity use, in addition to solar water heating.

  • Support reductions in the cost of solar water heating systems of at least 16 percent through a program that increases market size and encourages cost reductions through market efficiency and innovation.

  • Engage in market facilitation activities to reduce market barriers to solar water heating adoption, such as high permitting costs, lack of access to information, and lack of trained installers.

Eligible Customers for the CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives

Eligible customers are gas or electric water heating customers of SDG&E, PG&E and SoCalGas & SoCal Edison. The program will run for 8 years, until December 31, 2017, or until the program funds are exhausted, whichever occurs first.

This CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives program is a four-step declining incentive structure over the life of the program and the rebate is calculated based on the expected energy savings of your solar water heating system. CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives depend upon your current water heating fuel source (natural gas or electricity).

Residents who heat their water with natural gas may receive a maximum incentive of $1,875.

Residents who heat their water with electricity may receive a maximum incentive of $1,250.

Commercial or multifamily buildings who heat their water with natural gas may receive a maximum incentive of $200,000, while commercial or multifamily buildings who heat their water with electricity may receive a maximum incentive of $100,000.

Eligible SWH Equipment for the CSI-Thermal Program

Solar water heating ( SWH) equipment must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation ( SRCC). SRCC OG-300 certified equipment must be installed on single-family homes and SRCC OG-100 certified collectors must be installed on multifamily and commercial buildings. At the start of the CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives program, only solar water heating technology will be eligible for the rebate.

NOT Eligible

Other Solar Thermal technologies such as space heating, radiant floor heating, space cooling, etc will not be eligible. It is expected that those technologies may be introduced into the rebate program at a later date.

Administration: PG&E, SoCalGas, Edison and California Center for Sustainable Energy

The CSI Thermal Program will be administered by PG&E, Edison, SoCalGas, and by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) in the SDG&E territory.

PG&E and SDG&E, in coordination CCSE, will disburse incentives to both electric and natural gas ratepayers who install eligible solar water heating systems in their territories.

Edison will disburse incentives through the CSI Thermal Program to customers who install electric displacing solar water heating systems. SoCalGas will disburse incentives to customers in its territory who install natural gas displacing solar water heating systems.

Incentives are as follows:

Natural Gas Displacing Incentives:


Incentive for Average Residential Solar Water Heating System

Incentive per
Therm Displaced













    · Incentives are paid up-front based on estimated first year therms displaced.

    · Incentives decline in four steps based on program participation.

    · Forty percent of the incentive budget is reserved for single-family residential systems; 60 percent for commercial and multifamily systems.

Electric Displacing Incentives:

Step Level

Electric Displacing Incentive


Incentive for Average Residential System













· Incentives paid up-front based on estimated first year kWh displacement.

Contactor Participation Requirements

The requirements for CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives program contractor participation are currently being developed. We expect that contractors will need to attend a training workshop to learn about the application process, program guidelines and SWH installation techniques. Administrators may also ask for verification of liability insurance, workman’s compensation and auto insurance coverage. This requirement will be determined by March 1, 2010.

Contractors Submit Paperwork

CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives Contractors will be responsible for submitting the rebate applications. The CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater Incentives Program Administrators (PG&E, SoCal Edison, SoCalGas and the California Center for Sustainable Energy) are currently developing the application process and creating an appropriate online application database.

Installation Team Training

Some CSI California Solar Thermal Water Heater program technical resources posted in our “Contractors Corner.” We recommend you become very familiar with the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation installation guidelines ( It is also strongly encouraged for you to seek training from SWH equipment manufacturers.

The California Public Utilities Commission

CPUC will be holding public workshops in the first quarter of 2010 to discuss the following: system sizing requirements, development of an online incentive calculation tool that estimates energy savings, development of energy-efficiency requirements and metering requirements. Your input is welcome and encouraged! Refer to the CPUC website for postings on workshop details.

CSI Program Calendar

Do I have to wait until April 1, 2010, to sell and install SWH systems in order to receive the incentive? No. The CSI-Thermal Program will provide a rebate to projects that meet the program requirements and were installed after July 15, 2009. You will have to wait until April 1, 2010, to apply for the rebate for single-family projects and May 1, 2010, for multifamily and commercial projects.

San Diego Solar Water Heating Pilot Program

As part of the California Solar Initiative, the Solar Water Heating Pilot Program (SWHPP) provides incentives to business and customers who install qualifying solar water heating systems. The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is administering the program.  CCSE is authorized to provide $1.5 million in rate payer funds as incentives for the Solar Water Heating Pilot Program. These incentives will go to qualified, licensed contractors to promote the installation of clean, renewable solar water heating systems.

How can I learn more about the CSI Program?

If you are a SDG&E electric customer seeking to retrofit your current water heating system, contact the California Center for Sustainable Energy for an informational packet and list of registered installers. You may contact them directly for additional details:

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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