An Essential Technology
Heating water in California homes and businesses accounts for roughly 3% of total statewide greenhouse gas emissions. Given the state target of reducing emissions to near zero by mid-century, we cannot afford to leave a solution to a significant portion of the problem untapped. Solar thermal technologies can effectively help meet the hot water needs of homes and industrial facilities from the pollution-free heat of the sun.
California supports solar water heating and cooling technologies, also called solar thermal, through the CSI-Thermal rebate program. Unfortunately, the program was designed at a time of high natural gas prices and the California Public Utilities Commission was very slow to readjust. CALSEIA petitioned the CPUC multiple times to raise incentive levels and effective rebate levels were finally put in place in May 2015. Since then, program activity has increased, with some of the greatest growth within the affordable housing sector. However, just as the program is finally working as originally intended, the CSI Thermal program has a sunset date of December 2017.
That is why in the 2016 Legislative Session CALSEIA is sponsoring AB2460, authored by Assemblymember Irwin, a bill that would extend the CSI Thermal program to 2022. The bill would direct 50% of the funding for solar thermal projects on low income housing and in disadvantaged communities, as they should be a central focus of the state’s growing solar thermal market. The bill would also ensure that the maximum rebate cap works for industrial customers, including targeting 10% of resources to this sector, enabling solar thermal systems for the largest users of natural gas. For the long-term growth of this sector, we need long-term certainty of funding levels in order to expand and innovate, and continue to support jobs, manufacturing, and economic development opportunities across the state, which is why we are working hard to pass AB2460 this session.