California Solar Incentives Guide (2021 & 2022 Updates)

In this EcoWatch guide on the California solar tax credit you’ll learn:

  • Which tax credits the CPUC allows in 2021 & 2022.
  • How to qualify for the solar credit in California.
  • If you qualify for free solar panels in California.
  • And how to maximize your credit quickly.

This guide has helped 2,000+ homeowners produce clean energy in California while reducing the pricing of solar install jobs through state and local PV system tax credits. Let’s get started!

Ecowatch Author Karsten Neumeister

By Karsten Neumeister, Solar Expert

Updated 5/17/2022

Why You Can Trust EcoWatch

Our solar experts have sifted through hundreds of local governments’ and utility companies’ websites to find accurate information about current solar incentives in each state. We’ve also unbiasedly ranked and reviewed hundreds of solar installers in California to empower you to make the right choice for your home.

Jump To Section:

  1. California Solar Tax Credits and Solar Rebate Programs
  2. Other California Solar Panel Incentives
  3. Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit For Californians
  4. FAQs: California Solar Incentives

In this article, we’ll discuss the solar incentives and rebates available to California homeowners. When you’re ready to speak with a qualified professional, follow the links below. Each of these companies can help you identify and apply for incentives available in California.

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SunPower

  • Pros icon Most efficient panels on the market
  • Pros icon National coverage
  • Pros icon Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
  • Pros icon Great warranty coverage
  • Con icon Expensive
  • Con icon Customer service varies by local dealer

Services Offered

  • Service icon Solar Panels
  • Service icon Solar Batteries
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  • Service icon System Monitoring
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Sunrun

  • Pros icon Expansive service area
  • Pros icon Many financing options
  • Con icon Some reported issues with customer service
  • Con icon Some reported issues with door-to-door sales

Services Offered

  • Service icon Solar Panels
  • Service icon Solar Batteries
  • Service icon EV Chargers
  • Service icon Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
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NRG Clean Power

  • Pros icon Industry-leading warranty
  • Pros icon Outstanding customer service
  • Pros icon Representatives are experts on local policies
  • Con icon No leases or PPAs
  • Con icon Can be slightly expensive

Services Offered

  • Service icon Solar Panels
  • Service icon Solar Batteries
  • Service icon Solar Roof Shingles
  • Service icon EV Chargers
  • Service icon System Monitoring

Understanding Rebates and Incentives in the State of California

Though California enjoys one of the best climates for rooftop solar power in the U.S., it isn’t just ample sunshine that’s spurring the growth of renewable energy in the Golden State.

There are a number of California solar tax credit, exemption and rebate opportunities that make installing photovoltaic systems (PV systems) more affordable for residents and help the state produce more clean energy.

By taking early advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of solar, California has positioned itself as a leader in solar energy in the U.S.

Several of the nation’s top solar companies are based in California, and data from the Energy Information Administration shows that the state accounted for nearly 45% of the nation’s small-scale residential solar energy generation in 2019.

While the availability of products and quality installers adds to the ease of purchasing solar panels, what financial incentives are currently available for California residents interested in solar as a grid alternative? Let’s explore.

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California Solar Tax Credits and Solar Rebate Programs

Rooftop solar panels have long proved a reliable and savvy financial investment for Californians, and many buyers are able to secure a speedy return on investment (ROI).

However, there is currently no statewide California solar tax credit to help residents with the upfront cost of solar panels in California.

That said, all Californians are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and the state offers several incentive programs and solar rebates aimed at further increasing access to reliable, affordable solar panels.

California Solar Incentive Incentive Overview
Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) The SGIP as described by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) offers rebates for installing energy storage systems at both residential and non-residential facilities.
Active Solar Energy System Property Tax Exclusion This incentive ensures the addition of a solar panel installation doesn’t raise homeowners’ property taxes.
Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program The California Solar Initiative (CSI) launched SASH (or DAC-SASH) to provide fixed, up-front incentives on qualifying affordable single-family housing.

Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)

In response to an increasing frequency of power outages, California’s SGIP offers rebates to residents using solar battery systems to store excess energy.

Battery storage is an important component of emergency preparedness. However, these rebates are only available to certain areas of the state prone to outages. You can check your eligibility on the SGIP website.
California solar tax credit incentive facts

Active Solar Energy Tax Exemption Exclusion

Typically, when something of value is installed on a property, the addition is assessed and added to the property value (increasing property taxes accordingly).

California’s Active Solar Energy Tax Exclusion incentive allows residents to install solar systems without a change to the assessment of their property (even though solar panels increase property values significantly).

Single-Family Affordable Solar Housing (DAC-SASH) Program

SASH offers an incentive of $3 per watt to qualified low-income homeowners. Along with making solar more accessible in disadvantaged communities, this program reduces collective conventional electricity usage and promotes energy solutions that are environmentally and economically sustainable.

Note that you must be a customer of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) or San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to be eligible for this program.

Other California Solar Panel Incentives

Net energy metering (NEM), or net metering, allows customers to feed any excess energy generated by their solar panels back to the local power grid. In exchange, customers receive credits from their utility companies that can be applied to future bills.

As most solar systems generate more energy than a home uses, selling that surplus power back to a utility company provides homeowners additional savings on their electricity bills and lowers the demand for grid-supplied electricity in the region.

California currently offers a statewide net metering incentive for residents generating electricity with solar panels. Exact credit values will vary based on your utility company.

Some local utility companies and municipalities also have their own solar rebates and incentives, such as Sacramento’s $300 rebate for homeowners using solar as a grid alternative energy source.

Most top solar companies in California will help you identify local solar programs you’re eligible for, but it’s always worth taking a look at your local government and utility company websites to see if there are any additional incentives to take advantage of.

Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) For Californians

With the ITC, U.S. homeowners who purchase and install a solar power system in 2022 may qualify for a tax credit worth 26% of the total system cost. In 2023, the ITC will decrease to 22%, with no plans to continue in 2024.

The credit was first developed through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, under the Bush administration. Initially, it was set to last for just two years, but due to its bipartisan success has been extended for solar installations through at least 2023. (Note that the specific terms of the solar tax credit have changed over the years and may continue to shift.)

To be currently eligible for the federal tax credit, homeowners must meet the following criteria:

  • You have installed a residential solar panel system at any point from 2006 through the end of 2022.
  • You have placed the solar panel system in a residential location. It does not have to be your primary residence.
  • You own the solar system (as opposed to leasing solar panels), meaning you paid for it in cash or took out a solar loan.

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FAQs: California Solar Incentives

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Below are a few questions EcoWatch readers regularly send in about solar incentives and tax credit programs in California. If you have anymore, do not hesitate to contact us!

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Karsten Neumeister

Solar Expert

Karsten Neumeister is a solar energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the renewable energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on solar energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.