California is leading the country when it comes to customer-side solar installations, and it has a lot to be proud of in the solar energy sector. Just recently, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced that the state achieved a major milestone by installing over 1 GW of solar capacity by the end of 2012 through the California Solar Initiative (CSI). That’s enough to power 100,000 homes, and enough to avoid building two conventional power plants. “California has the most customer-side solar installations of any state in the nation. This is a tremendous milestone for California and a testament to the success of the CSI,” said Michael Peevy, president of the CPUC.

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CSI is a solar rebate program with a budget of $2.167 billion offered to residents through three investor-owned utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). It is responsible for about 50% of the total solar power capacity in California and aims to install approximately 1940 MW of new solar capacity  by the end of 2016. So far, the initiative has exceed expectations and has already achieved 55% of their capacity goal, at 1066 MW of new rooftop solar for homes and businesses.

The CSI rebate program was designed to offer incentives that got smaller as solar power became more widespread. In 2007, when it was launched, consumers were able to get rebates as high as $2.50/watt. Now that the incentives have dwindled considerably, consumers now only get about $0.20/watt. Even with this decline in incentives, California residents aren’t losing interest in solar. For example, PG&E adds about 1000 new solar customers every year and now has the highest number of solar customers of any utility in the world.

The CSI is currently reviewing proposals to set up 332 MW of additional solar projects. With high rebate demand and the additional benefit of a 25% reduction in photovoltaic system costs, the program is well on its way to achieving it’s goal of 1940 MW of solar capacity by 2016.

+ California Solar Initiative

Via Clean Technica