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If you have low income in California, a special program can subsidize the entire cost of your home battery backup system

Avatar for Dan Hahn
Published on 03/27/2020 in
Updated 03/31/2020
Tesla Powerwall home battery

Since we’ve been tracking residential clean energy incentives in 2007, California has always been an innovative leader. The state has the most solar installations in the country, and a big reason why is the progressive thinking and execution from legislators in Sacramento.

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With more focus on resilience and grid stability than ever, California continues to lead the way in providing meaningful rebates to homeowners who upgrade their homes not just with solar, but with home based battery backup systems.

A special program called the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) provides rebates that can be applied to the upfront cost of installing advanced home energy storage systems, Like the Tesla Powerwall 2. These rebates get less impressive as time goes by and as a function of how many people use it.

The amount of funding available for advanced home energy storage systems is very generous, especially if you’re in a low income group. Keep reading to learn how the program works.

Batteries help you save big with time-of-use billing in California

California utilities have adopted special billing schemes where your electricity rates change based on the time of day you consume energy. On such time-of-use (TOU) plans, electricity is usually most affordable when people don’t use it.

sce tou-d-b rates from the past

With a home battery backup system, you can draw energy to charge your battery during the most affordable times of day, and discharge your battery to power your home during peak hours. In the example above, you’d charge your battery overnight from the grid and discharge in the afternoon.

Coupling your home battery backup system with solar power can help you save even more, as you get to pull electricity from your rooftop during peak times in addition to your battery to power your home.

In this way, you don’t need to draw as much electricity from the grid to top off your battery, saving you extra money.

SGIP Program Details

The California SGIP program has been very popular to date and incentives are evaporating. Credits are awarded on a dollars per watt hour ($/wH) basis. Here’s a table which outlines the rebate structure for residential home energy storage systems:

Incentive StepIncentive rate ($/Wh)
Step 1$.50
Step 2$.40
Step 3$.35
Step 4$.30
Step 5$.25

The SGIP program budget is funded by the California Public Utilities Commission and distributed between four program administrators (PG&E, SCE, CSE, and SoCalGas). Each administrator manages their own incentive pools subject to the rebate steps outlined above.

When each program administrator reaches step 3, a quarter of their remaining energy storage rebate budget gets allocated to fund low-income projects until the remaining funds are exhausted.

As of this writing (March 2020), all California utilities participating in SGIP are in funding tier 5, or $0.25/Wh. That means the a low income equity fund is currently active, and low income residential projects are currently credited at a rate of $0.85/Wh, more than triple the existing incentive! To check current funding tiers, visit the SGIP program metrics website.

Eligibility criteria for low-income SGIP funds

If you live in affordable housing and make less than 80% of area mean income in California, you qualify for low-income status within the SGIP program. This “equity” designation basically pays for your entire home battery backup system to be installed. If you qualify for this status, you can add resilience to your property, basically for free.

How much home battery backup systems cost compared to SGIP funding

The LG Chem RESU Battery

LG makes a solid 9.8kWh Chem Resu battery pictured above, which retails for about $6,000 (Read our review of the LG Chem RESU). The California SGIP equity program would allow funding of $8,330 ($.85/Wh or $850/kWh * 9.8 = $8,330) to have that system installed. That’s more than enough funding to cover the equipment, and plenty left over for an installer to get the work done on your home.

Even if you don’t qualify for the low income program, the SGIP program currently would provide $2,450, or about half off the cost of this battery backup system.

The best way to claim these incentives is to connect with a local installer in California and have them process all the online forms to reserve the rebate you’re eligible for.

Last modified: March 31, 2020

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