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More information for CSI Customers

California Solar Initiative Rebates

California Solar Initiative rebates vary according to utility territory, system size, customer class, and performance and installation factors. The rebates automatically decline in "steps" based on the volume of solar megawatts (MWs) with confirmed project reservations within each utility service territory. The figure below shows the expected schedule for rebate decline over time. To find the currently applicable rebate level in your area, check with your local utility administrator. There are two incentive paths available to consumers: Expected Performance Based Buydown and Performance Based Incentive.

graph from CPUC

The CSI Program pays solar consumers an incentive based on system performance. The incentives are either an upfront lump-sum payment based on expected performance, or a monthly payment based on actual performance over five years. The Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB) is the upfront incentive available only for smaller systems. The EPBB incentive is a capacity-based incentive that is adjusted based on expected system performance calculated using an EPBB calculator that considers major design characteristics of the system, such as panel type, installation tilt, shading, orientation, and solar insolation available by location. The EPBB calculator estimates the expected performance of a solar system based various factors including the tilt, azimuth, location, PV module type and mounting type of a specific system.

The Performance Based Incentive (PBI) is paid based on actual performance over the course of five years. The PBI is paid on a fixed dollar per kilowatt-hour ($/kWh) of generation basis and is the required incentive type for systems greater than 30 kW in size, although smaller systems may opt to be paid based on PBI. In the beginning of the CSI Program, all systems 100kW and greater were required to take the PBI incentive. In January 2008, all systems 50kW and greater were required to take the PBI incentive. As of January 2010, all systems 30kW and greater are required to take the PBI incentive.

These two incentive types are explained in more detail in the table below.

CSI Incentive Types

Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB)
(Paid in dollars/Watt)
Performance-Based Incentive (PBI)
(Paid in cents/kWh)
Ideal for residential and small business projects Ideal for larger commercial, government & non-profit projects
Systems less than 30 kW Mandatory for all systems 30 kW and greater Systems less than 30kW can opt-in to PBI
Incentive paid per Watt based on your system's expected performance (factors include CEC-AC rating, location, orientation and shading) Incentive paid based on the actual energy produced by the solar system, measured in kilowatt-hours
One-time, lump-sum upfront payment 60 monthly payments over five years