California Governor Signs Bill to Incentivize Solar for Low-Income Housing

SACRAMENTO—Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill this week to incentivize solar thermal systems, in particular, on low-income housing buildings. AB 797 (Irwin) extends hefty consumer rebates for solar thermal systems. The legislation is part of California’s ongoing efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and natural gas consumption.

“Using California’s warm sunshine to do something as simple as heating water is sensible for our state and a key way to protect public health, clean up our air, and support local good-paying jobs,” said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), author of the bill.

The signed legislation will extend the existing California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal program to 2020. The program provides cash rebates, up to $800,000, to multifamily housing, hotels, commercial swimming pools, manufacturing plants, and other commercial businesses who purchase solar thermal systems.  Moreover, half of the funds are set aside for low-income housing buildings. The program was originally scheduled to end at the end of this year.

William Chen, President of Engineering at Adroit Energy, Inc., says, “this extension of the CSI-Thermal program helps significantly reduce low-income buildings’ reliance and costs for fossil fuels. The program pays significantly more rebates for low-income building applications, making solar hot water a very attractive financially feasible solution.” Chen also mentions Adroit Energy, a San Diego solar thermal contractor, has seen rebates of 50-60% of the total system and labor costs.

“A major challenge to meeting our state’s climate goals – and one that not enough people are talking about – is that we have to heat our homes, businesses, and schools without relying on dirty fossil fuels. Solar thermal fits the bill, while reducing our energy bills at the same time,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California, which co-sponsored the bill.

Kelly Knutsen, Senior Policy Advisor of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), a cosponsor of AB 797, says, The California solar thermal market is growing, especially in the multifamily housing sector – with 32% annual growth between 2015 and 2016 in annual natural gas savings,”

According to CALSEIA, solar thermal projects installed under the CSI-Thermal program has offset over 31,000 metric tons of CO2(eq) annually, comparable to taking 6,900 cars off the road each year. The program reduces natural gas use across the state by over 6 million therms each year. This number is equal to the annual amount of natural gas used to heat water for over 32,000 homes.

Knutsen praises Governor Brown, because “he has been a long-time champion of clean energy and solar thermal technologies, and we applaud both Governor Brown and Assemblymember Irwin for their leadership in building California’s clean energy economy.”

Luciana Da Silva is the Director of Marketing & Corporate Development at Adroit Energy, Inc.

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