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Five Solar Rebates Every California Homeowner Should Know

Sunny California is prime real estate for solar energy, and a number of California rebates make home solar systems highly affordable for Golden State residents. The only downside to these programs is that some have limited funding. Homeowners interested in solar panels will want to act soon to take full advantage of all the savings.

Here are five solar incentive programs that every California homeowner should know.

1. The Federal Incentive Program

The government offers the most generous program. The federal incentive program pays for up to 30 percent of the cost of installing a residential solar system in the form of a tax credit. The program is currently set to expire at the end of 2016.

2. California Solar Initiative

The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) has transitioned its residential rebate program over to your local utility companies. The CPUC oversees the program. The state still exempts renewable energy home improvements from property tax assessments, so installing a PV system won’t raise your property taxes.

The new program offers per-installed-watt rebates from the state’s three major utilities, Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). It’s a tiered program, with rebates that step down in price as more utility customers participate in the program.

Currently, PGE and SDG&E are at the ninth step of the ten-step program, offering rebates of $.25 per watt. SCE is at the seventh step of the program, offering $.65 per watt.

Municipal utilities offer rebates as well, some of them substantially more generous than those offered by the larger utilities, although annual funds are generally limited. Of course, if you live in one of California’s top solar cities, your rebates are likely generous. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for example, just moved to step six of their ten-step program, offering $1.62 per watt.

3. Single-family Affordable Homes (SASH) Program

Low-income Californian homeowners may be eligible to receive free or greatly-discounted home PV systems under the CPUC’s SASH program. Residents must be PG&E, SCE or SDG&E customers to qualify and must meet income requirements.

Generally, households earning less than 50 percent of the area’s median income levels may apply for a free 1-kilowatt home solar system. Households earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of median incomes may qualify for $4.75 per watt to $7.00 per watt rebates. SASH is administered by the non-profit organization GRID Alternatives.

4. New Solar Homes Partnership

The CPUC offers cash rebates to home builders who build houses with solar electrical systems built in. The New Solar Homes Partnership has been a huge success, and it’s likely the program will meet its goal of 400-megawatt capacity by 2016.

5. Thermal Rebate Program

The three major Californian utilities offer tiered rebate programs for solar water heating systems, too. Currently, all three utilities are in the first of a four-step program. Homeowners who replace a natural gas system can expect rebates of about $1,500. Those who replace electric systems can expect about $1,000.

Photo via joncallas