CSI General Market Program

The CSI General Market Program closed on December 31, 2016.  The General Market program had a goal to install 1750 MW of rooftop solar energy on businesses and existing homes with an incentive budget of $1.95 billion.              

Solar Incentive Level Design

The CSI Program was designed with a declining incentive structure to support the California solar market’s growth while gradually reducing its reliance on subsidies. The CPUC divided the Program’s overall megawatt goal into 10 incentive steps and assigned a target  capacity cap in each step. Incentive rates were based on dollars per-watt or cents per-kilowatt-hour. As the market matured, it was expected solar system costs would drop, and so incentives offered through the program declined. The MW targets in each incentive step level were assigned to particular customer classes (residential, commercial, and government / non-profit) and allocated across the three Investor Owned Utility (IOU) service territories, in proportion with each utility’s contribution to overall state electricity sales.

Once all the megawatt targets in a particular incentive step were reserved via CSI applications, the incentive level offered by the CSI Program automatically dropped to the next lower incentive step. This created a demand-driven incentive program that adjusted solar incentive levels based on local solar market conditions.

Figure 1 below shows how CSI incentives declined as the program progressed through the 10 steps and more MWs were installed. The CSI incentive levels declined by customer class and utility from January 2007 until the program’s closure. See the CSI Trigger Tracker for currently applicable step levels.

The CSI Budget Report shows how incentives were allocated in each program year.   

Figure 1. Overview of the CSI Step Level Changes

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