California Regulators Propose Expansion of Eligibility Requirements for Solar Water Heating Program

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has proposed expanding the eligibility requirements for customers seeking to participate in the California Solar Initiative (CSI) thermal low-income program for solar water heating systems.

A Sept. 1 proposed decision from Commissioner Michael Picker would expand the thermal low-income program to include customers participating in the state’s low-income weatherization program (LIWP) and low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP).

Under the thermal low-income program, the California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) provides no-cost energy efficiency weatherization upgrades and solar water heating system installations to low-income residents in California. Program administrators include Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas and The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE).

The proposed decision may be heard, at the earliest, at the CPUC’s Oct. 1 Business Meeting.

Under the current guidelines, customers must participate in a CPUC-approved and supervised gas corporation low-income energy efficiency program to be eligible to participate in the CSI thermal program. LIHEAP and LIWP are not CPUC-approved or supervised low-income programs.

The low-income energy efficiency program that customers are currently required to participate in to qualify for the CSI thermal low-income program is known as the energy savings assistance program – a state-level low-income energy efficiency program administered by CPUC-regulated utilities.

Together with the California Energy Commission (CEC), the CPUC has set a goal of installing 585 million therms of gas-displacing solar hot water systems by the end of 2017.

According to the proposed decision, the modification to eligibility requirements will enable CSD to more readily identify eligible households through LIWP or LIHEAP, since CSD has access to a database of LIWP and LIHEAP-eligible housing in California.

“[B]y including LIWP and LIHEAP as eligible low-income energy efficiency programs, CSD will be able to better coordinate its LIWP and LIHEAP energy efficiency weatherization efforts with its [solar water heater] pilot program so that CSD can offer full housing retrofits and systematically assess for, install, and inspect energy efficiency upgrades and solar water heating systems on eligible low-income housing,” the proposed decision said.

The thermal low-income program offers cash rebates of up to $4,366 on solar water heating systems for single-family residential customers, and $800,000 for multi-family and commercial properties, according to the CEC-CPUC administered Go Solar California website.

Lead image: Vacuum solar water heating system on the house roof. Credit Shutterstock.

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