State Solar Policy

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California Solar

California continues to be a leading solar market in the United States. A plethora of sunny days combined with supportive solar policies have created an ideal solar market. Each market segment—utility-scale, residential and commercial—can boast a number of beneficial programs and incentives.

Facts on the California Solar Industry

  • There are currently more than 1,678 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in California, employing 47,223.
  • In 2013, California installed 2,746 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 1st nationally.
  • The 5,660 MW of solar energy currently installed in California ranks the state 1st in the country in installed solar capacity.  There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 1,256,500 homes.
  • In 2013, $7.1 billion was invested in California to install solar for home, business and utility use.  This represents a 83% increase over the previous year, and is expected to grow again this year.
  • Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in California have fallen by 8% in the last year.  National prices have also dropped steadily— by 12% from last year and 31% from 2010.

View more solar industry data.

2013 Legislative Session Recap 

California continues to be a leading solar market in the United States. A plethora of sunny days combined with supportive solar policies have created an ideal solar market. Each market segment—utility-scale, residential and commercial—can boast a number of beneficial programs and incentives.

2013 was an extraordinary year legislatively for the California solar industry. SEIA resources were critical to the passage of a number of key bills to expand access to solar energy to many more Californians. Notable legislation includes: 

  • AB 217 (Bradford)- Extends funding beyond 2016 for the California Solar Initiative low-income programs- the Single Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program and Multifamily Affordable Solar Homes (MASH) Program. 
  • AB 327 (Perea)- Removes a number of statutorily-imposed California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) residential ratemaking restrictions. The bill also authorizes the CPUC to procure renewable resources beyond the current 33% RPS target, removes the impending 2015 Net Energy Metering (NEM) Program suspension, and establishes a process for the CPUC to develop and implement new NEM Program rules (including uncapped NEM as an option) that will take effect by July 1, 2017. 
  • AB 792 (Mullin)- Clarifies that all customer-sited distributed generation, including third-party solar PPA systems, are exempt from any local utility user tax (UUT) until January 1, 2020. 
  • SB 43 (Wolk)- Requires an additional 600 MW of renewable energy procurement through the establishment of the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Pilot Program. The Pilot will allow investor-owned utility (IOU) customers to purchase up to 100% of their energy needs from new renewable projects. The bill also mandates that options be explored for customers and suppliers to form custom or shared arrangements. 
  • SB 96- Authorizes the CPUC to require the IOUs to continue to collect funds for the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) Program until the $400 million NSHP Program allocation has been met. 

SEIA California State Solar Policy Priorities

  • Encourage policies promoting  robust penetration of distributed generation to help meet the Governor’s 12 GW goal.
  • Continue to improve and streamline the distributed generation interconnection process.
  • Provide access to solar energy to ratepayers who otherwise would not have had such access, such as apartment tenants and low‐income customers.
  • Develop and shape a favorable long‐term framework for net energy metering.

Notable Solar Installations in California

  • California Valley Solar Ranch was completed in 2012 by developer SunPower.  This photovoltaic project has the capacity to generate 250 MW of electricity-- enough to power over 54,000 California homes.
  • Another utility-scale project, Topaz in San Luis Obispo County, is currently under construction in California and is scheduled to come online in 2014.  Developed by First Solar, this 550 MW photovoltaic project will generate enough electricity to power 160,000 homes.
  • At 392 MW, Ivanpah in Barstow is among the largest solar installations in California.  Completed in 2013 by BrightSource, this concentrating solar power project has enough electric capacity to power more than 140,000 homes.

See our solar installations maps

Solar Companies in California

  • There are currently more than 1,678 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in California.  These companies provide a wide variety of solar products and services ranging from solar system installations to the manufacturing of components used in photovoltaic panels.  These companies can be broken down across the following categories: 346 manufacturers, 91 manufacturing facilities, 816 contractor/installers, 107 project developers, 102 distributors and 307 engaged in other solar activities including financing, engineering and legal support.

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California State Solar Policy Resources

California Public Utilities Commission – Learn about the governing body that regulates the electricity rates and services of California public utilities

California Solar Initiative – Read information on the solar rebate program for customers of California's investor-owned utilities

California State Energy Commission – Find a wide variety of information on state government energy programs, policy, projects, energy-saving strategies and energy-related statistics

California State Legislature – Track pending legislation affecting solar energy, locate and contact individual legislators, and stay up to date on current legislative issues in California 

DSIRE Incentives Database - California – Search a public clearinghouse for specific solar energy incentives in California and across the United States

U.S. Energy Information Administration - California State Profile – Explore official energy statistics, including data on electricity supply and demand, from the U.S. government 

Take Action in California!
Sign our petition to tell the California Public Utilities Commission that they shouldn't change the rules on Californians with rooftop solar!

For more information about SEIA’s activities in California, send an email to our state affairs team and we will respond as promptly as possible.

You can also contact our state chapter, CalSEIA, for more information on California solar policy.

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