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CSI General Market Program

The CSI General Market Program is the largest component in the CSI program.  As given form in Decision 06-12-033, the General Market program aims to install 1750 MW of rooftop solar energy with an incentive budget initially set at $1.75 billion (increased to $1.95 billion in Decision 11-12-019). 

Solar Incentive Level Design

The CSI Program was designed to be responsive to economies of scale in the California solar market – as the solar market grows, it was expected solar system costs would drop and incentives offered through the program decline. The CPUC divided the overall megawatt goal for the incentive program into 10 programmatic incentive level steps, and assigned a target amount of capacity in each step to receive an incentive based on dollars per-watt or cents per-kilowatt-hour. The MW targets in each incentive step level are assigned to particular customer classes (residential, commercial, and government / non-profit) and allocated across the three IOU service territories, in proportion with each group’s contribution to overall state electricity sales.

Once all the MW targets in a particular incentive step level are reserved via CSI application, which can occur at different times for each customer class in each utility service territory, the incentive level offered by the CSI Program automatically reduces to the next lower incentive step level. This creates a demand-driven incentive program that adjusts solar incentive levels based on local solar market conditions.

Figure 1 below shows how CSI incentives decline as the program progresses through the 10 steps and more MWs are installed. The CSI incentive levels have declined by customer class and utility, from January 2007 to the present. See the CSI Trigger Tracker for currently applicable step levels.

To see how much money is left in a particular sub-program, see the “Remaining Funds” column in Table 2 of the current CSI Budget Report [webmaster, link to].

Figure 1. Overview of the CSI Step Level Changes

Incentive Types

The CSI Program pays solar consumers their incentive either all at once for smaller systems or over the course of five years for larger systems.

Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB):

  • Smaller systems – less than 50 kW,
  • Intended for residential and small business customers
  • Upfront, capacity-based incentive that is adjusted based on expected system performance

Performance-Based Incentive (PBI):

  • Larger systems – larger than 30 kW (applications between 10 and 30 kW can choose)
  • Intended for large commercial, government, and non-profit customers
  • Incentives based on their actual performance over the course of five years

Last Modified: 8/5/2014

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