The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week issued its annual assessment of the California Solar Initiative, a $2.2 billion effort to install 1,940 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity across the state by 2016. On balance, the commission’s findings are positive:
Three years into the state’s 10-year solar program, California is already 42 percent of the way towards its general market program goal in the territories of the investor-owned utilities. This figure includes both projects already installed and those currently holding reservations for incentives and in the process of being installed.
California has over 600 MW of solar connected to the electric grid at nearly 65,000 customer sites. Of the 598 MW of capacity installed in investor-owned utility territories, 342 MW were installed under the CSI Program at 31,000 sites, as well as 256 MW installed through other programs.
Demand is increasing. The CSI Program received a record of nearly 300 MW of new CSI project applications since January 2010 – more than any other six-month period since the start of the program.
The program had over 134 MW of new projects applying in April 2010, the highest month on record for new solar applications.
For every dollar spent on incentives by the state, there has been another $2.62 invested in solar technology in California from other sources.
Program data shows a decline in the average cost of solar systems. The inflation adjusted cost trends show that prices have declined since January 2007 from $10.04/watt to $8.49/watt for systems under 10 kW.
The CSI Program has reduced incentive levels several times since 2007 in response to program demand. Incentives started at $2.50/watt across the state, and now they are as low as $0.65/watt.
While the number of California solar installations is growing at a decent rate, however, the state’s three biggest utilities may just miss their state-mandated renewable energy targets. By 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), Southern California Edison (CSE) and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) are supposed to source 20 percent of their retail electricity sales via renewable resources, like solar, wind and geothermal technologies. As the L.A. Times relays, the utilities are likely to end the year with a combined figure of 18 percent.