Solar rebates are rapidly becoming an endangered species, but there are still a handful of refuges out there for the lucky few who reside in those areas. Here is our update on who is offering what as of January, 2015.
Although there are lots of ways to approach this, we figured that the most entertaining would be to rank-order each utility in the Run on Sun service area from best to worst in terms of their rebate program (and we will toss in a handy summary chart at the end).
Beyond a doubt, the best run solar rebate program in our service area is provided by our hometown utility, Pasadena Water & Power. The folks at PWP have figured out how to provide generous rebates on a predictable schedule while keeping bureaucratic annoyances to a minimum. Boy could its neighbors learn a thing or two from PWP!
Here are their numbers as of today:
Residential: $0.85/Watt EPBB; 12.9¢/kWh PBI.
Commercial: $0.85/Watt EPBB; 12.9¢/kWh PBI.
Non-Profit: $1.60/Watt EPBB; 24.2¢/kWh PBI.
Keep in mind, those numbers have been in place for a long time (since 2012!) and we expect them to drop some time this year.
Anaheim is offering some big rebate numbers, but they offer a ridiculously small window of opportunity for snagging them. Specifically, the window is about to open and you need to submit a rebate application between today, January 15, 2015 and two weeks from today as the window closes on January 29! After that you are out-of-luck until the next window is set. For those who can jump on the opportunity, here are the numbers:
Residential: $1.25/Watt EPBB; n/a PBI.
Commercial: $1.10/Watt EPBB; 11.0¢/kWh PBI.
Which brings us to the problem children…
Azusa has a rebate program, maybe. But what it really has as of now is a waiting list. Good luck with that.
Burbank and Glendale feel like the same city so its not surprising that their local utilities seem to act in lock step. Both utilities arguably offer rebates, but unlike PWP - their more intelligent neighbor to the East - neither BWP nor GWP can figure out how to keep a rebate program open for more than a few weeks (days?) at a time. They say they are victims of their own success, but we see it as a sign of bad planning. (Oh, and don’t get us started about GWP’s alleged Feed-in Tariff program which after a year and a half is yet to have a single application submitted! Genius!)
As for now, all the unfortunate residents of these two communities can do is wait until the new fiscal year in July and hope that some funds will be allocated.
In SCE territory the party is officially over - there are no more rebate funds available, and despite the Governor’s call for 50% of electricity to come from renewables by 2030, there are no moves a foot to refund the CSI program. This is unfortunate beyond the lack of funding - with the demise of the CSI rebates, so goes the CSI data since that was only gathered as part of the rebate process. As a result, we lose a major solar incentive along with a major source of market data for the largest solar market in the country! More genius! (Here’s a thought - since SCE still requires us to go through the interconnection agreement process - via email - why not collect the data that way?)
LADWP offers a rebate, but they have the most excruciating process ever for getting it. (Think of that wealthy Uncle who could easily help you out, but is going to make you bow and scrape before he cuts loose with some ducats, and you get the picture.) Moreover, non-residential rebates are going away in favor of the Feed-in Tariff program, but for small commercial or non-profit customers, that option simply doesn’t pencil out.
For those residential customers with the patience to outlast the bureaucrats, here’s their rebate:
Residential: $0.40/Watt EPBB; n/a PBI.
Frankly, that’s just not worth the trouble.
So here’s the overall results for all of these utilities:
While rebates are going away, the 30% federal tax credit is still in place, and will continue through the end of 2016. Carpe diem!
We have just learned that the City of Burbank will once again be offering rebates for a very limited number of solar installations. Here are the details.
The total program is limited to projects below 30 kW; larger projects need not apply.
The program will pay rebates to residential customers at $1.28/Watt (CEC-AC) and $0.97/Watt for commercial customers. There is no carve out for non-profits, however they say that such entities “will be given lottery priority." Burbank says that is anticipates having enough funding for 50 residential and 10 commercial projects, with the allocation evenly split between the two. That figures to be around a total of 500 kW, 50 residential at 5 and ten commercial at 25 kW each. Surely the demand in Burbank is greater than that, so how will they handle the inevitable over-subscription? Easy - Burbank is holding a lottery.
Throughout the month of July, applications can be delivered to the offices of Burbank Water & Power. Then, on August 12, 2013, Burbank will hold a lottery and application numbers will be selected at random. (Not sure how that squares with giving non-profits “lottery priority".) The lucky few winners will be notified by August 16, 2013. “Winning” applications will have 1 year to complete their installation.
Not a great program by any stretch, but at least, for a while, Burbank is back in the game.
We have just learned that Burbank Water and Power (BWP) - which had suspended its solar rebates back in April 2011 - is introducing what might be the most bizarre rebate procedure ever - a rebate lottery! Here is the text of the announcement in its entirety from the BWP website:
Direction for how the program will accept new applications effective July 1, 2012 will be provided by the Burbank City Council on June 26. Staff is proposing the following:
Additional details will be posted on this web site in early July 2012. If you have additional questions please contact the program manager at email@example.com
- Retain the current policy of dividing the remaining non-Performance Based Incentive (PBI) budget amount evenly between residential and small commercial solar installations. This is projected to provide approximately $60,000 in incentives for each customer category.
- Lottery applications would be accepted from July 1 through September 1, 2012.
- On September 4, 2012, BWP would use a lottery system to provide an order of rebate consideration for both residential and commercial (including Not-for-Profit organizations)solar applications. Priority will be given to business accounts that fall under a not-for-profit designation.
- Applicants will be notified in early September of their lottery number and application status. ”Winners” will be provided one month to meet all previously defined system application requirements through BWP’s online PowerClerk system, including, but not limited to, a signed contract, meter service confirmation, and City permit application approval.
- Rebates would open at Step 6: $1.28/watt for residential installations and $0.97/watt for commercial installations.
If this announcement is to be taken at face value, this means that they will be setting up a two-month lottery for the chance to be one of maybe 12 residential projects to get a rebate and only one fo 2-4 small commercial projects. Seriously? All this Sturm und Drang for a grand total of 16 rebates? With no way for a BWP customer to know in advance whether they will be one of the lucky “winners"?
We sent an email to the address above asking for some clarification, but as of this publication we have not received a reply. If you think this “lottery” is as silly as we do, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org - maybe they will be more willing to respond to you!
While we weren’t watching, the folks at Burbank Water & Power (BWP) pulled the plug on their solar rebate program, continuing the trend of on-again/off-again solar rebate programs at Southern California municipal utilities which has also included LADWP and Glendale Water & Power in the past year. Of the local munis, only Pasadena Water & Power has managed their program without interruption.
Here is the announcement from BWP’s website:
Due to the overwhelming success of the BWP Solar Support Rebate program and budgetary restrictions, effective April 21st 2011 the program has been suspended. Only those rebate applications in the on-line software PowerClerk with a status of “Confirmed Reservation” will be paid. These payments will be made when all remaining documentation is provided, but no sooner than July 1, 2011. All other solar rebate applications will be canceled and paperwork mailed back to the installer. Please check back to this web site in the spring of 2012 for a possible update. Solar Installers with customers that wish to proceed without a solar rebate should contact the program manager at email@example.com for details about the Solar Interconnection Agreement and other requirements.
Pardon us for a contrarian view, but when you have to suspend your program mid-year, it isn’t an “overwhelming success” — it is mismanaged.
Potential solar clients and solar companies alike need predictability - not programs that can simply disappear without prior notice.
Which brings us to another curious thing about this website announcement - it says that the effective date for the program suspension was April 21, 2011 but the earliest public disclosure that we can find about the change is this article in the local newspaper, the Burbank Leader, titled “Burbank Officials Suspend Solar Rebate Program,” dated August 30! Now it is true that we do not monitor the BWP website on a daily basis, but it stands to reason that if this suspension had been announced earlier, we would be able to find some notice of it online before August 30 - four months after the suspension date! (Interestingly, the last press release displayed on the BWP website is from April 22 but it says nothing about the suspension.)
If that timing is accurate, it means that solar companies could have been devoting time and resources in a tight economy to developing business in Burbank for a third of a year, only to have that expenditure rendered largely useless at the caprice of another muni utility that cannot manage its budget.
UPDATE - 2x - In advance of the meetings this week, LADWP has made available a number of materials so we are linking to them here.
For the Solar Incentive Program (SIP):
For the Feed-in Tariff (FIT):
Hope to see you there - if you have any comments about these, feel free to leave them below. You can also send comments to LADWP at LREP@ladwp.com.
UPDATE - Please note that LADWP has reconfigured their meeting to satisfy popular demand. Instead of one workshop on the 14th from 2-5, there will now be four, on Thursday and Friday mornings and afternoons. Here is the revised meeting schedule (along with the necessary links to RSVP):
We announced earlier that the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) was holding a workshop to discuss the restart of its Solar Incentive Program (SIP) after a 90-day hiatus. We have now received some of the details of the program - along with a copy of their presentation - and want to share some information in advance of next week’s public hearing.
First, a reminder - the public hearing on the proposed revisions to the program will be held next Thursday, July 14 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at LADWP headquarters, 111 N. Hope St., Los Angeles in the A-Level Auditorium. Hope to see you there.
LADWP staff will make a presentation about two customer-related programs, the SIP and a new Feed-in-Tariff (FIT). The primary difference between the two programs is that the SIP is a net-metering program, meaning the customer who hosts the solar power system consumes the energy produced by the system and uses that to lower their LADWP bills. Under the proposed FIT program, LADWP purchases all of the output from the solar power system and pays the system owner a at a rate to be determined for that energy. (In other words - this is NOT a German-style FIT that would benefit residential customers.) The balance of this post will only address the SIP.
As we had noted previously, the LADWP SIP had been a victim of its own success - resulting in a lengthy application processing backlog, a corresponding inspection backlog and lengthy delays in paying rebates. Moreover, the program was over-subscribed with more applications coming in than there was money to support them. Accordingly, a 90-day moratorium was imposed while LADWP went back to the drawing board to revise the program.
It would appear that LADWP put that time to good use - reportedly reducing their application backlog from 800 to zero, authorizing the start-up of 2.2 MW of solar power systems and cutting over 150 rebate checks worth $10 million. More importantly for the program going forward, they devised changes to bring stability and predictability - or so they say - to the program for the next three years.
So what are the major changes proposed? Here are the highlights:
The LADWP presentation provided a series of charts (not tables) to depict rebate rates going forward. There are some omissions here that are important - the charts show rebates at different steps, but they do not say how many MW are in each step. For example, here is the residential rebate rate graph (click for full size):
Based on where the “Proposed Incentive Levels” plot begins, presumably we are starting at Step 5. What the chart doesn’t tell you is how many MWs of applications will LADWP accept before stepping down to the next incentive level. The lack of data points is also annoying - apparently we are starting at somewhere around $2.20 W. Nor is there anything said about how the system size will be calculated going forward - will LADWP adopt the CSI calculator that everyone else uses or will they continue to use their idiosyncratic - and error prone - system using PVWatts directly?
Here is the graph for commercial rebate rates (click for full size):
That graph seems to show that the rebate rate when the program resumes will be just under $2.00/Watt. But again, a question - is LADWP only using EPBB rebates, even for large commercial projects? Or did they simply omit the graph showing PBI rates?
Finally, here is the graph for Government/Non-Profit rebates (click for full size):
Our best guess is that the rebate rate here is roughly $2.75/Watt.
Obviously lots of questions remain - we will report back after the July 14th meeting and hopefully we will have some answers.