Solar Thermal Legislation Advances In California

In a 10-2 vote on Wednesday, the California Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee passed A.B.2460, a bill that would expand consumer incentives for rooftop solar thermal technologies.

“I am pleased the committee took the important step of moving this bill forward,” says Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, author of the bill. “Using California’s abundant sunshine to do something as simple as heating water is sensible for our state and a key way to diversify our energy resources, protect public health and clean up our air.”

According to the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), the bill would extend California Solar Initiative Thermal program funding for 10 years through 2027, providing certainty to the growing solar water heating market. Under the program, consumers would get an upfront rebate as well as be eligible for the 30% federal tax credit. A typical residential solar hot water system costs around $6,000 before rebates.

The bill would also target significant resources for solar thermal on low-income housing and buildings in disadvantaged communities. CALSEIA says demand for solar water heating in low-income multifamily housing buildings is high, accounting for nearly half of the applications in 2015. A.B.2460 would also ensure that the maximum rebate cap works for industrial customers, the group adds.

According to CALSEIA, the bill is part of a response to the massive natural gas leak at California’s Aliso Canyon and efforts to reduce natural gas use statewide, meet greenhouse-gas reduction goals and improve grid reliability. The organization says that solar thermal technologies can reduce natural gas demand within a building by up to 80%.

“To meet our statewide climate change goals and address the challenges posed by Aliso Canyon, we need consistent consumer access to the sun,” comments Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the CALSEIA. “We thank Assembly member Irwin for her leadership on this important issue.”


  1. For single family applications, solar thermal is more trouble than it is worth. Any system that puts fluid onto a rooftop is at risk for freezing, boiling and scaling. These systems require annual inspections by a professional which mostly wipes out their savings.

    A better solution is the use of solar electric (PV) with a heat pump water heater (HPWH). They operate at 250-300% efficiencies since they get their heat from the surrounding air and PV requires virtually no maintenance throughout its 30+ year life.


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