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Go Solar, California! Newsletter - October 2011

Solar Toolbox

CSI Handbook



CSI NSHP Affordable Developer Toolkit

CSI Annual Program Assessment

CSI Program Administrators

California Center for Sustainable Energy

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Southern California Edison

California Public Utilities Commission

Go Solar, California! Web site


Cross Promotion

CSI Annual Program Assessment


Greetings {FIRST_NAME}!

This net-zero energy residence in Encinitas, Calif., was part of the 16th annual National Solar Tour held Oct. 1 when hundreds of solar homes were open to tens of thousands of interested visitors. CSI salutes the San Diego Renewable Energy Society for conducting the San Diego tour, one of 13 held throughout California. Thanks to all who helped people learn about the benefits of solar! Read on for more solar news and important updates from CSI Program Administrators.


In This Issue


The CSI-Thermal Offers Rebates to Low-Income Customers

On Oct. 6, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a $25 million CSI-Thermal Low-Income Program. Qualifying low-income customers in the service areas of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) will be able to receive incentives for natural gas-displacing solar hot water heating systems.

Incentives for single-family low-income customers will be 200 percent of the applicable general market CSI-Thermal solar water heater incentive level, while incentives for multifamily affordable housing will be 150 percent of the applicable general market CSI-Thermal solar water heater incentive level.

The same Program Administrators (PAs) that administer the gas-displacing portion of the general market CSI-Thermal Program, namely PG&E, SoCalGas and the California Center for Sustainable Energy, will administer the CSI-Thermal Low-Income Program. The CSI-Thermal PAs will begin accepting applications for the CSI-Thermal Low-Income Program within 120 days of the decision (Q1 2012).

A link to the final decision is available by clicking here.


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CSI Program Handbook Update Highlights

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will soon issue a revised California Solar Initiative (CSI) Program Handbook that reflects numerous changes to the program as a result of both commission decisions and four advice letters with proposed amendments. The Program Administrators (PAs) submitted the advice letters to propose updates to specific sections within the program as well as to requirement sections of the current handbook.

The new edition of the CSI Handbook will be effective on Oct. 19. The following are some of the key changes.

Performance Monitoring Reporting Service (PMRS)

  • Projects above 10 kW are mandated to install a PMRS system and report 15-minute interval kWh production data to the program on a quarterly basis for five years.
  • All projects 10 kW and below are exempt from installing a PMRS service, but are still encouraged to do so.
  • These changes to PMRS don't apply to the MASH program.
  • All CSI reservations above 10 kW submitted before Oct. 19, 2011, are exempt from the new requirement.

Expected Performance Based Buydown (EPBB) Incentive Calculator

  • The EPBB calculator has been integrated into PowerClerk in order to streamline the process by removing the requirement for the applicant to submit a copy of the EPBB calculation.
  • MASH projects, however, are still required to submit copies of the EPBB printout because the integration is not implemented within the MASH Program application tool.

Performance-Base Incentive (PBI)

  • The PBI incentive option is no longer available for all fixed systems less than 10 kW. This applies for all CSI reservation submitted after July 14, 2011.

CSI Program Budget

  • Additional language has been added to address availability of CSI incentives once the PAs have reached the allocated megawatt targets or have spent the allocated incentive budget, whichever comes first.
  • The changes include updated budget language, such as mechanisms to forecast remaining budget funds, expended budget guidelines and the overall CSI program budget.

You can find more highlights of changes under the "What's New" section of the handbook. To view the newest CSI Program Handbook, click here or check with your local PA.


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Residential Solar Rebate Levels Decrease Statewide

Designed to respond to real market conditions and lower solar costs, California Solar Initiative rebates decline in a series of steps as solar capacity increases. On Sept. 28, Southern California Edison (SCE) dropped to CSI Residential Step 7, with the incentive level of $0.65 per watt. The following day, the California Center for Sustainable Energy announced reaching Step 9 for residential solar, with an incentive level of $0.25 per watt. And then on Oct. 6, Pacific Gas & Electric received enough residential applications to reach Step 9.

The last residential step change for SCE was in March of this year. Since May 2010, SCE has experienced six step changes across the residential and nonresidential segments, indicating a stronger push for solar in Southern California the past 18 months.

To maximize megawatt allocations in the current steps of either program area, contractors are encouraged to notify CSI Program Administrators (PAs) of any applications that need to be canceled.

Typically, PAs face a significant increase in the number of applications as step changes approach. Please keep in mind that applications are processed in the order received. You can monitor the Trigger Tracker online.


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Net Surplus Compensation Rolls Out, Customer Questions Mount

On Sept. 22, the California Public Utilities Commission approved utility tariffs to provide net surplus compensation (NSC) for net energy metering customers that generate a surplus of unused credits at the end of their annual true-up periods. These tariffs are now available for customers in all three investor-owned utility service territories. Here are some general points to tell your customers about NSC to minimize any confusion caused by the new billing arrangements.

  • The NSC rate may fluctuate every month because it is based on a rolling 12-month average of spot market prices. Based on current market prices, the rate is approximately 4 cents per kWh.
  • NSC rates are available for customers who qualify on or after Jan. 1, 2011.
  • NSC is not designed to offset more than the customer's onsite load — the new policy does not allow customers to oversize their PV systems in order to generate surplus compensation. Renewable energy credit (REC) payments are still pending the California Energy Commission's verification and tracking methodologies.

More information is available on the CPUC Web site, including utility-specific FAQ sites and a NSC fact sheet.


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SB 585 Signed, Benefits CSI Program Budget

On Sept. 22, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 585, which increases the California Public Utility's portion of the California Solar Initiative program budget from $2.17 billion to $2.37 billion. The $200 million addition to the incentive budget will allow the general market portion of the program to complete its goal of installing 1,750 MW of solar generation by 2016.

The bill requires that the CSI program direct the program funds' accumulated interest to the incentives fund and collect the remaining needed funds by extending at the end of the program the CSI ratepayer surcharge. The bill also changes the formula used to calculate the per-kWh payments (performance-based incentives, or PBI) by reducing the discount factor (from 8 percent to 4 percent) used to reflect inflation over time. As a result, some PBI payment rates for new applications will be lowered.

Finally, the bill mandates that the CPUC establish caps on the total cost of projects funded through the CSI. The program already has such caps in place and the CPUC will continue to monitor and adjust them over time.


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Commission Resolves Issues Pertaining to CSI Application Processes

In Resolution E-4396, adopted on Sept. 8, a request to streamline the current solar rebate application process from two steps to a one-step process was denied by CPUC staff. The request was one of several changes to the CSI Program Handbook made by CSI Program Administrators (PAs) in December 2010.

PAs proposed changing the current two-step application process to a mandatory one-step application process for all residential and small nonresidential projects because they had determined the move would reduce administrative costs. "As always, PAs are looking everywhere to save costs," said Southern California Edison's CSI Program Manager Michael Tomlin.

While other requested handbook modifications were approved, solar advocates had protested the issue of switching to the one-step application process because the change eliminated the ability to confirm the applicable solar rebate before the installation of a solar system, creating uncertainty for solar contractors and customers. The CPUC spent months assessing various alternatives, but ultimately the CSI application process is unchanged with regard to two-step processing.

The current approved CSI Program Handbook is available on the CPUC website.

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CSI-Thermal Program Changes Approved

On Friday, Sept. 16, the California Public Utilities Commission approved an advice letter submitted by CSI-Thermal Program Administrators that will result in changes being made to the program handbook. These changes result from continued conversations with and recommendations by the solar water heating industry.

Many of the modifications help to expand eligibility to previously ineligible system configurations. Some of the changes include:

  • Allowing for existing storage tanks in some multifamily/commercial systems
  • Clarification on combined system eligibility
  • Allowing for reduced tank sizes in some multifamily/commercial systems
  • Allowing for closed-loop recirculation systems that recirculate water in the collector loop
  • Allowing for pool/spa as a heat dump for stagnation protection

A link to the most recent handbook is at CSI-Thermal Program Handbook.


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CPUC Holds Southern California Meetings Regarding New Rates

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is holding a series of Public Participation Hearings to discuss proposed rate increases requested by San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Company as part of the General Rate Cases for the companies. Several hearings were held in San Diego earlier in the month, with the remaining hearings as follows:

Oct. 12, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - El Cajon City Hall Council Chambers
Oct. 13, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - Civic Center Library Community Rooms, Oceanside
Oct. 24, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - Veterans Memorial Complex, Culver City
Oct. 25, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center, Van Nuys
Oct. 26, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - Gardena City Hall Council Chambers
Oct. 27, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - Palmdale City Hall Council Chambers

For more information on the General Rate Case requests, click here.

Public Participation Hearings are scheduled to provide the public an opportunity to comment on these cases. Comments from the public can help the CPUC reach an informed decision, and consumers are encouraged to attend. Written comments may be submitted to CPUC Public Advisor, 505 Van Ness Ave., Room 2103, San Francisco, CA 94102 or via e-mail to


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Going to Dallas? Visit the Go Solar, California! Booth at Solar Power International

CSI Program Administrators are proud to be exhibiting at this year's Solar Power International 2011 exhibition and conference Oct. 17-20 at the Dallas Convention Center.

The exhibit floor will feature 1,200 companies/organizations showcasing their latest innovations in products and services.

In addition, there will be nearly 40 sessions featuring industry thought leaders, 15 before and after conference workshops and three general sessions that will include NBA Hall of Famer turned business entrepreneur Magic Johnson, utility CEOs and Marcus Buckingham, a leading researcher, business consultant and speaker who will talk about unlocking the great superstar qualities of successful business performers.

According to show organizers Solar Electric Power Association and Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar sector grew 67% in 2010, becoming a $6 billion industry that employs 100,000 Americans.

Come visit the Go Solar, California! booth #5918 for latest information and resources on the CSI programs.


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GRID Alternatives Solarthon Events to Energize Communities Statewide

csi-nl-box-augBy the end of 2011, GRID Alternatives will have hosted five "Solarthons" — annual community fundraising and solar installation events — throughout California. Each Solarthon brings together hundreds of volunteers, job training participants and low-income homeowners to install multiple solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in a single day in a single community. GRID Alternatives manages the SASH Program.

All of the homeowners participating in Solarthons are eligible for the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program, which offers rebates to low-income homeowners to help make solar PV more affordable.

GRID Alternatives launched the 2011 Solarthon season in September by installing PV systems on thirteen homes in the Bayview district of San Francisco and on six homes in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Coming up are Solarthons in Fresno on October 8, Templeton on October 22 and Lynwood on November 5.

In all, about 50 families will gain solar electric systems through these Solarthon events, roughly doubling the number of families served by Solarthons last year. The systems will eliminate more than 4,400 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and generate $1.3 million worth of renewable energy savings for families living on very low incomes.

Many businesses and individuals supported the fundraising efforts, in addition to SASH Program rebates. In particular, Yingli Solar, the official module provider for GRID Alternatives in 2011, supplied panels for the 50 homes. These installations have created thousands of hands-on job training opportunities in PV installation while helping underserved families with immediate financial savings through energy cost reductions.

For more information about Solarthon events, click here.


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Upcoming Workshops and Trainings by Program Territory

csi-nl-box-sept Free Statewide Workshops by the California Solar Initiative
CSI Program Administrators sponsor free, ongoing workshops for solar customers and installers on a variety of topics.

Workshops in SDG&E Service Territory by the California Center for Sustainable Energy

Workshops in PG&E Service Territory

Workshops in SCE Service Territory

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Call for Photos and Stories of CSI-Funded Solar Systems

Calling all installers and solar system owners! This is a great opportunity to showcase your CSI-funded solar projects. The California Solar Initiative Program seeks photos and success stories of CSI-funded solar systems for use in future newsletters or other CSI-related publicity. Photos can include completed solar PV systems, shots of installations in progress or solar water heating installations.

Please provide the following when submitting your solar PV system, solar water heating system or installation photos and stories.

  • Name of photographer
  • Name of installer, seller and/or system owner
  • System size and location
  • Date project was installed
  • Full permission to use photo in CSI-related publicity

Submit your CSI-funded solar system photos and stories here.

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CCSE | PG&E | SCE | © 2011 California Solar Initiative


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505 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, California 94102