California Moves to Improve Solar Incentive Program for New Homes

The California Energy Commission became the sole administrator of the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) September 1. The program provides incentives to homeowners, builders and developers installing solar energy systems on new homes in Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) territories.

“The decision was made in part to increase consistency by having a single point of contact for stakeholders,” said Energy Commission’s Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “Plus, administering the program at the Energy Commission will reduce administrative costs so that more money can be spent on rebates.”

Over the next month, Energy Commission staff will work closely with each of the utilities to ensure a smooth transition with as little program disruption as possible. The utilities will continue to work with stakeholders on reservation applications and payment claims that were previously submitted and are currently under review.*

Last week, the Energy Commission also approved updated program guidelines that include a new incentive for west-facing solar energy systems. Systems that face west are designed to make the most of the late-day sunshine when electricity demand is greatest. The additional rebate can be as much as $500.

“We are hoping to squeeze more energy out of the afternoon daylight hours when electricity demand is highest,” said David Hochschild, lead commissioner for the agency’s renewable energy division, which will be administering the program. “By encouraging west-facing solar systems, we can better match our renewable supply with energy demand.”

The goal of the NSHP program is to install 360 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic capacity by the end of 2016. The Energy Commission has distributed more than $100 million with another $80 million reserved for pending projects. In 2006, the California Legislature established a statewide solar program, the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which set a goal of having residents and businesses install 3,000 MW of solar energy by the end of 2016. More than 2,200 MW have been installed under CSI, which includes the NSHP program.

The investor-owned utilities—SCE, SDG&E, and PG &E—had administered the program since its inception in 2008 and helped offset costs of more than 12,500 new systems capable of producing about 40 MW of electricity. Another 14,500 systems that are capable of generating that same amount of electricity are awaiting installations.

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