California has established itself as one of the leaders in energy and environmental policy in the United States over the last decade. It has gained this recognition in part out of necessity as California requires an enormous amount of energy relative to other states. In order to reduce dependence on nonrenewable power sources, California has been one of the most aggressive as it pertains to offering incentives for the adoption of solar. The California Solar Initiative (CSI) represents the largest of these efforts, as it provides rebates to residential and commercial solar customers of the three major investor-owned California utilities since 2007. It has been heralded as a success by the green energy sector and even the harshest of skeptics have found very little to combat these claims.

  • California went from about 2,000 residential solar installations registered in the CSI database in 2007 to more than 90,000 residential installations by this date last year.
  • California leads the nation in total solar installations at nearly 246,000 for a total of 2,385 MW of power.
  • It is also leads the nation with the lowest average cost per watt of $5.43 and $4.85 for systems smaller than 10 kWh and those larger than 10 kWh respectively.

Short Term Program Goals

The CSI isn’t resting on these lofty totals however and has set competitive goals for the state’s future solar capacity. With 2,385 MW of power currently, the state wants an additional 1,750 MW of power added by the conclusion of 2016. The residential and nonresidential customers of each of the Big 3 investor owned utility companies (CSE, PG&E, and SCE) were responsible for a certain percentage of this growth for a total of 6 different sections. As of May 20th 2015, all 6 are well above the pace needed to achieve this goal based on already completed installations and those that are in application. What’s more impressive is that all three utility companies residential solar goals have already been exceeded with over 18 months remaining in the original timeline.

Where California is Headed in 2020

The state is setting lofty goals for the year 2020 thanks in large part to the early success of the CSI and its impact on the PV market. These include:

  • a minimum of 33% of of its electricity be obtained by renewable sources like wind and solar.
  • to build 12 GW of of distributed electricity generation and another 8 GW of large scale renewables
  • All new home construction be energy neutral by 2020, new commercial by 2030

In many states, these lofty 2020 goals are extremely unrealistic but California stands above the rest in its adoption rate. Clean energy production has nearly doubled each year from 2010 to 2013. The home solar PV market is still outpacing all other renewable sources and now account for over half of all new renewable projects. As a result of this increased demand, PV prices continue to plummet as manufacturing as ramped up to meet the demand. With 5 cities in the state among the top 12 in the country for solar PV capacity, Californians are making the switch and adopting solar in numbers unmatched in nearly every other city. With solar adoption climbing each year, it seems as though the state will meet and exceed its 2020 goals in the same impressive fashion it blew by those set for 2016.

This article was composed by Brian Levesque. Brian currently contributes content to Ablaze Energy – a solar solution company out of Denver, CO. In his free time, Brian enjoys reading and researching information on alternative energy.