The California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) today announced a unique partnership in California to bring solar energy to low-income households. CSD has partnered with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to install 1,000 solar water heating systems in low-income homes by leveraging the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Block Grant with CPUC California Solar Initiative (CSI) incentives.
“Low-income communities are often the last to benefit from clean, renewable and efficient energy due to the cost barriers,” said CSD Acting Chief Deputy Director Jason Wimbley. “Here in California, we are working to address this inequity by designing programs and partnerships to bring renewable energy to these underserved communities.”
The LIHEAP Block Grant provides assistance to eligible low-income households to meet their home energy needs, and the CSI program offers rebates of up to $3,750 to help incentivize a solar water heating system that displaces the use of natural gas in qualifying low-income homes. Through leveraging the two programs, this pilot will cover the full cost of a solar water heating system and installation in eligible homes.
“This collaboration will contribute to the state’s energy goals of increased renewables, while helping to bring the benefits of solar energy to low-income communities throughout California,” said CPUC Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval.
To date, the average cost of a single-family solar water heater system installed under the CSI thermal program is $9,000. The average installed cost of a system under this pilot program is estimated to be $3,700 due in large part to a bulk-purchase agreement with FAFCO, a California-based solar water heating system manufacturer. CSD is contributing $1.6 million under California’s LIHEAP grant, which will be matched by approximately $2 million in CSI rebates to cover the cost of the systems.
Additional partners collaborating on the pilot program include local LIHEAP providers and utility companies. The participating utility companies are targeting outreach to eligible households in their service territories, and CSD’s local LIHEAP providers install the systems in the eligible low-income homes. All qualifying households must meet all eligibility criteria for the LIHEAP and CPUC CSI Solar Thermal low-income programs.
The first solar water heating system under the pilot program was installed this week in Redding, CA. The local LIHEAP provider in Redding, Self- Help Home Improvement Project (SHHIP), installed the system on October 1. The anticipated CSI rebate for the system is estimated to be about $2,400, with LIHEAP covering the remaining cost of about $1,300.
(Photo Credit: Scott Berg, SHHIP)