California Solar Initiative - PV Incentives

February 16, 2017


Note: All three utilities have reached their budget limits for residential installations are no longer accepting applications. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (CSE) have also reached their budget limits for non-residential systems and are no longer accepting applications. As of June 2015, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) is nearing its budget limit for non-residential systems. Click here for the current status for each utility.    

In January 2006, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted a program -- the California Solar Initiative (CSI) -- to provide more than $2.3 billion in incentives for photovoltaic (PV) projects with the objective of adding 1,940 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity by 2016. The CSI includes the general market program (described here), the Single-family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) program and the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program. The CSI is one element of the greater Go Solar California Campaign, which includes the New Solar Homes Partnership and the incentives offered by the Publicly Owned Utilities,  and which has a total target of 3,000 MW of new solar capacity by 2016. 

General Market CSI incentive levels automatically step down over the duration of the program in 10 steps based on the aggregate capacity of solar installed. In this way, incentive reductions are linked to levels of solar demand rather than an arbitrary timetable.

Expected Performance-Based Buydowns for systems under 30 kW began in 2007 at $2.50/W AC for residential and commercial systems (adjusted based on expected performance) and $3.25/W AC for government entities and nonprofits (adjusted based on expected performance). The incentive levels decline as the aggregate capacity of PV installations increases. Incentives will be awarded as a one-time, up-front payment based on expected performance, which is calculated using equipment ratings and installation factors such as geographic location, tilt, orientation and shading. Click here for current incentive levels for each utility. Systems under 30 kW also have the option of opting for a performance-based incentive rather than the incentive based on expected performance.

Performance-Based Incentives (PBI) for systems 30 kW and larger began in 2007 at $0.39/kWh for the first five years for taxable entities, and $$0.50/kWh for the first five years for government entities and nonprofits. The incentive levels decline as the aggregate capacity of PV installations increases. PBI will be paid monthly based on the actual amount of energy produced for a period of five years. Residential and small commercial projects under the 30 kW threshold can also choose to opt in to the PBI rather than the upfront Expected Performance-Based Buydown approach. However, all installations of 30 kW or larger must take the PBI. Click here for current incentive levels for each utility

The program is managed by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and the Center for Sustainable Energy.

Incentives for Other Solar Electric Generating Technologies
The CSI Handbook released in January 2008 clarified the eligibility of other solar electric generating technologies which either produce electricity or displace electricity. Incentives for other solar electric generating technologies are available for CSI incentives effective October 1, 2008. The CPUC specifically recognizes electric generating solar thermal as including dish stirling, solar trough, and concentrating solar technologies, while technologies that displace electricity include solar forced air heating, and solar cooling or air conditioning. The budget for electric displacing technologies is capped at $100.8 million. While solar water heaters can also displace electricity, the CPUC excludes them from the CSI because they incentives for solar water heaters through a separate program.

CSI Program Administrators:

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)
Web Site:
E-mail Address:
Contact Person: Program Manager, California Solar Initiative Program
Telephone: 877-743-4112

Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) (on behalf of SDG&E)
Web Site:
E-mail Address:
Contact Person: Program Manager
Telephone: 858-244-1177

Southern California Edison (SCE)
Web Site:
E-mail Address:
Contact Person: Program Manager, California Solar Initiative Program
Telephone: 1-800-799-4177

Program Overview

Implementing Sector: State
Category: Financial Incentive
State: California
Incentive Type: Rebate Program
Web Site:
Administrator: SCE, CSE, PG&E
Start Date:
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
  • Solar Space Heat
  • Solar Thermal Electric
  • Solar Thermal Process Heat
  • Solar Photovoltaics
Incentive Amount: Varies by sector and system size (see below)
Equipment Requirements: System components must be on the CEC's list of eligible equipment.
Systems must be grid-connected.
Inverters and modules must each carry a 10-year warranty.
PV modules must be UL 1703-certified
Inverters must be UL 1741-certified, and tested by the Energy Commission
Installation Requirements: Systems must be installed by appropriately licensed California solar contractors or self-installed by the system owner.
Installer certification by NABCEP is encouraged.
Ownership of Renewable Energy Credits: Remains with customer-generator


Name: CSI Handbook (2014)
Date Enacted: October 2014
Name: SB 1
Date Enacted: 8/21/2006
Name: CPUC decision 06-01-024
Name: CPUC Proceeding R0803008

This information is sourced from DSIRE; the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.