In January of 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission started the California Solar Initiative. Its target was to install 1,750 megawatts of solar capacity by the end of 2016. In its Annual Program Assessment report issued June 30, the CPUC reported that the California Solar Initiative General Market Program had installed 1,753.6 MW, with another 139.7 MW reserved in pending projects as of December 31, 2015. That means it reached its goal a year sooner than expected.
The Commission also says customer solar installations continued to increase in 2015, largely without rebate incentives. This demonstrates the Initiative has substantially achieved its objective of stimulating widespread adoption of solar energy and succeeded in creating a self sustaining market.
In addition to the news about the Initiative meeting its goal early, the program assessment also reports that between the last quarter of 2008 and the last quarter of 2014, the average cost of installed residential systems decreased 53%. It dropped from $10.87 per watt to $5.14 per watt. The average cost of installed non-residential solar systems decreased 62% from $10.30 per watt to $3.93 per watt.
The California Solar Initiative Single Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program has completed a total of 5,681 projects, representing 17.2 MW of installed capacity on eligible homes. There are an additional 317 SASH projects in progress, with a total capacity of more than 1 MW.
The California Solar Initiative Multi-family Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program has completed 372 projects, representing 24.67 MW of installed capacity. There are an additional 214 MASH projects in progress or under review, with a total capacity of 38.6 MW.
In just over five years of operation, the California Solar Initiative Thermal program has approved 3,407 applications for $47.5 million in incentives of the available $205 million California Solar Initiative Thermal incentive budget.
The California Solar Initiative Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment program has conducted five project solicitations since its inception, resulting in grant funding for 36 projects, totaling $44.4 million. Funded projects have focused on integration of solar photovoltaics into the electricity grid, energy generation technologies and business development, and grid integration and production technologies.
California has been a leader in solar energy promotion. While many other states, particularly Nevada, have adopted policies that discourage or actively penalize new solar power installations by anyone other than traditional utility companies, California has created a pathway forward for solar power within its borders and set a standard for other states to follow.