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New Changes to the CSI Thermal Rebate Program: Commercial Swimming Pools, Heating, and Cooling Now Eligible


Commercial swimming pools now eligible for the CSI Thermal rebate. (Photo courtesy of www.localfitness.com.au.)

California’s CSI Thermal program has expanded eligibility for its lucrative rebates that give California businesses up to $500,000 towards the cost or their solar thermal installations.

The first big change is that commercial pool heating is now eligible for the rebate. Second, commercial combined solar water heating and solar space heating, solar process heat, and solar cooling all now qualify for a performance based incentive (PBI).

What brought on the changes? In CPUC Decision 13-02-018, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recognized that the CSI Thermal Program will not meet its 2017 goals for energy displacement at the current rate of system installation, despite recently raising the incentive amount for commercial and residential systems.

The thinking is that by expanding the program to more technologies, it will (finally) open up the market and encourage more California hotels, fitness centers, apartment buildings, and industrial food and beverage processors to consider new and old solar thermal technologies for various applications.

Commercial Solar Pool Heating

Swimming pools have traditionally been seen as a luxury item unworthy of taxpayer-funded subsidies. But that’s not the case for swimming pools used in schools, universities, fitness centers, apartment buildings, hotels, and waterparks. Heated pools are part of their business models, allowing them to differentiate themselves from competitors that do not provide pools for their guests. Solar pool heaters will significantly reduce their operating costs, as well as reduce California’s carbon footprint.

It should be noted that residential pools are still not covered, but residential solar pool heaters are less expensive than OG-300 residential systems. Plus, if the pool is heated often, the ROI for residential solar pool heating is quick and substantial over time.

Solar Thermal Space Heating and Cooling

As solar thermal engineers and designers, Free Hot Water welcomes opening up the CSI Thermal program to new applications and technologies. (In fact, we won an Intersolar Award for doing just that.)

In terms of commercial solar thermal space heating, cooling, etc, the recent CPUC decision made several significant changes for eligibility and the incentive structure:

Performance Based Incentives (PBI): A PBI will replace the current 70/30 incentive mechanism for larger systems. Rebates will be paid based on metered energy delivered to the end use from the solar thermal system, with payments made quarterly over a two-year time period. Process heat, solar cooling, combination systems, and very large systems will be required to take the PBI incentive.

Process Heat: The CSI Thermal Program will provide incentives to process heat applications via a PBI system that pays the incentive based on metered energy delivered to the facility.

Solar Cooling: The CSIThermal Program will provide incentives to solar assisted absorption chillers as a limited pilot program to test this technology’s performance, durability, and economics. Incentives will be limited to no more than $10 million across the service territories of Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, and Southern California Gas, and will be paid on a PBI basis.

Single-Family Combination Water/Space Heating: The CSI Thermal

Program will offer an incentive to the space heating portion of an OG-300 rated combination system, in addition to the water heating incentive, once these systems are certified by a qualified standards body.

Commercial/Multi-family Combination Systems: Incentives will be paid via a PBI mechanism to commercial/multi-family systems that use OG-100 collectors to provide heat for a combination of any of the following: water heating, space heating, solar cooling, and process heat. Incentives will be paid based on energy actually delivered to the building.

Free Hot Water designs and engineers innovative solar thermal systems for applications that are installed all over the world with our experienced solar installer partners. If you have a commercial solar water heating project, or a project that requires solar heating or cooling, contact us for a free consultation. We’d love to help you take advantage of all of the available CSI Thermal rebates.

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