The California Legislature passed AB 797 (Irwin) on Sept. 14, 2017. With the bipartisan vote in the Assembly of 45-19 and the Senate’s bipartisan 30-10 vote, the bill now heads to the Governor for his signature. The bill extends consumer incentives for solar thermal technologies that heat water and air using the sun’s energy, reducing natural gas use in homes and buildings. The bill is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals, improve air quality, and support economic development.
"Using California's warm sunshine to do something as simple as heating water is sensible for our state and a key way to protect public health, clean up our air, and support local good-paying jobs," said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), author of the bill. "I am pleased the Legislature voted to send the extension of this important program to the Governor’s desk.”
AB 797 would extend the existing California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal program for two years to 2020, seamlessly continuing the natural gas rebate program for homes, businesses and commercial swimming pools, such as at schools and community centers. The bill targets half of the funds for low-income housing and buildings in disadvantaged communities. It also expands eligibility for these rebates to homeowners in the San Joaquin Valley who currently use propane or wood to heat their water.
“A major challenge to meeting our state’s climate goals – and one that not enough people are talking about – is that we have to heat our homes, businesses and schools without relying on dirty fossil fuels. Solar thermal fits the bill, while reducing our energy bills at the same time,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California, which cosponsored the bill.
Solar thermal projects installed under the CSI-Thermal program reduced natural gas use across the state by over 5.8 million therms each year, equal to the annual amount of natural gas used to heat water for over 32,00 homes. The program has offset over 31,000 metric tons of CO2(eq) annually, comparable to taking over 6,500 cars off the road each year.
The Governor has until October 15 to decide on whether to sign the bill into law.