The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently implemented a California Solar Initiative (CSI) Thermal Program for low income residents. Under the program, $25 million has been allocated to promote the installation of solar water heating systems in qualifying low income single- and multi-family residences that are in the service of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), the Southern California Gas Company or San Diego Gas and Electric.
Funding for the incentives will come from collections from gas ratepayers. Though solar water heating systems are more expensive than conventional heaters at the outset, they are more economically viable in the long run as their fuel is free – unlike the natural gas heaters they are intended to replace.
“Solar water heaters are cost effective for many applications over the life of the system,” said Alan Simon, commissioner for the Low Income Oversight Board for the California Alternate Rates for Energy, and the Energy Savings Assistance Program. “Although solar water heaters cost more initially than conventional water heaters, the fuel they use – sunshine – is free. This allows us to achieve our goals of delivering cost effective energy savings to low income customers.”
CPUC President Michael R. Peevey said that in addition to reducing natural gas use, the CSI-Thermal Program would be beneficial for low-income customers. “This program will help ease the financial burden on low-income customers who may otherwise not be able to participate in the program,” he said.