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California regulators sponsor solar water heaters for homes, businesses

The state Public Utilities Commission is encouraging Californians to install solar-powered water heaters in homes and at businesses.

The encouragement will show up in the mail – in the form of a check. The regulatory commission approved a $350 million rebate program. About a tenth of that is set aside for low-income customers.

Customers who replace natural gas-powered water heaters with ones powered by solar energy are eligible for a total $250 million of that benefit. A smaller pool of money will go to people with electric water heaters.

Purchases made since August of last year qualify for rebates from PG & E, San Diego Gas and Electric, and from Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas in some circumstances. The Public Utilities Commission expects the California Solar Initiative Thermal Program to replace the equivalent of 200,000 water heaters in the next seven years – or until the money runs out.