California’s S G I P is Giving Millions to Big Businesses Instead of You

by Andrew Meyer
February 9, 2016
Home Battery

If you haven’t yet heard about California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), it’s time to wake up and smell the money… before it’s gone.

California has pledged $83 million a year in up-front incentives for technology that generates energy behind-the-meter (or, power that is intended for use on-site, like in a home or business.) $83 million is a lot of money, and you’re not going to like where it’s going… so far.

Remind me, what is the SGIP?

SGIP stands for Self Generation Incentive Program, a way to motivate consumers to use alternative energy sources to generate and store their own electricity. The SGIP was extended through 2019 by California’s governor, Jerry Brown, at the end of last year. California will continue providing $83 million a year to get more technology like wind, waste-to-heat power, gas turbines, biogas, fuel cells, and advanced energy storage like home batteries into the homes and businesses of Californians. In short, the program pays Californians for using certain renewable energy systems, like turbines, and also pays households with energy storage systems, like home batteries. We’re not talking about a few extra pennies, either. The SGIP pays energy storage users over a dollar per watt. This means that home battery owners in California not only enjoy backup power and blackout protection along with lower (or even non-existent) electricity bills… they also get paid.

For projects that are under 30kW, which would include most residential systems, 100% of the incentive is paid up front, easing the cost of renewable energy systems quite a bit for Californians that take advantage of the SGIP. The complete list of eligible projects is as follows:

Wind: $1.02/W

Waste Heat to Power: $1.02/W

Pressure Reduction Turbine: $1.02/W

Internal Combustion Engine (CHP): $0.42/W

Microturbine (CHP): $0.42/W

Gas Turbine (CHP): $0.42/W

Advanced Energy Storage: $1.44/W

Biogas: $1.44/W

Fuel Cell (CHP or Electric Only): $1.48/W

An additional 20% incentive is available for the installation of eligible Advanced Energy Storage technologies, as long as they come from a California supplier. (If you’re wondering what this could mean for you specifically, let Swell do the math for you.)

The SGIP caps incentive payment at 3MW (which is a ton -- most residential systems max out under 20kWh), but there is no minimum eligibility system size. No matter how small of a renewable energy or energy storage system you’re looking at, you are eligible for money. Free money. After your incentive claim is completed and reviewed, Pacific Gas & Electric issues you a check within 30 days.

The SGIP is an amazing opportunity for households all over the state, but so far, the funding is being gobbled up by some huge businesses. Introducing: Bloom Energy.

How Bloom Energy Is Cashing in on the SGIP

Bloom Energy, a fuel cell company based in Sunnyvale, California, hasn’t wasted any time taking advantage of a huge chunk of SGIP cash. So far, Bloom Energy’s natural gas powered fuel cells have reserved more than $400 million of the total $1.4 billion offered by the SGIP (over 14 years.) That’s an insane amount of money to go toward one single company, and they’re not the only big business in the game.

Tesla’s right behind them. Tesla Motors, the company that recently debuted the Powerwall home battery, has also claimed $65 million in SGIP incentives. So far, Tesla hasn’t hit the same level as Bloom, but we can’t help but think that giving tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of incentives to successful companies wasn’t what the SGIP was intended to do.

Specifically, the SGIP description states that its goal is to give financial incentives to any household or business that is using generation technologies to further California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This leaves the qualifications pretty broad, which is why big companies have been able to take advantage of so much of the money in the first place. But rest assured, Californian homeowners, you still qualify, and there’s still a lot of funding left. It’s your turn to cash in on the SGIP. Here’s how.

Get Paid to Build Your Energy Fortress

It’s time to make your house awesome… and get paid to do it. The SGIP will pay you to add an energy storage system to your home. If you have solar panels (or even if you don’t), getting a home battery just makes sense, even without the SGIP’s check coming in the mail. The price of electricity from the grid continues to rise, while prices of home batteries, along with solar photovoltaics, are falling fast as the technology becomes more and more popular. If you’re already generating energy during the day, get a home battery to save it for the evening, when you need it the most. If you live in California, the SGIP will pay you for something you already want -- lower-cost, clean energy, independence from the grid, and blackout protection.

Biggest Payoff with Home Batteries

One of the highest incentive categories within the SGIP is Advanced Energy Storage, rewarded by $1.42/W. Advanced Energy Storage technologies convert electricity (like the electricity generated by solar photovoltaics) into energy, store it, then convert it back to usable electricity at a later time. The lithium-ion home battery is a common, economical example of Advanced Energy Storage. Some home batteries store energy straight from the power grid, enabling owners to store power from the grid when demand and price is low, and use it later on in the evening, when many power companies hike prices and charge additional fees. Other home batteries store energy generated from outside, renewable sources like solar panels, giving owners the luxury of storing energy during the day when the sun’s rays are the strongest, and use that energy in the evenings when the sun goes down, and they need electricity the most. Either method is accepted under the SGIP, and eligible for compensation.

If you’re looking to get one of the highest rewards through the SGIP and install an incredibly useful addition to your home at the same time, energy storage is definitely the way to go. Installing an energy storage system, like home batteries, alongside solar panels, can not only provide you with cheap, clean energy, but protect you from blackouts as well. Who knew back-up power was so economically advantageous?

How to Get Your Piece of SGIP Funding

One reason that Californian homeowners aren’t claiming their share of SGIP funding is because they don’t know it’s available, or they don’t know how to get it. We’re here to change that. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for homeowners to take advantage of SGIP incentives. Applying for SGIP funding takes just a few minutes, and requires just some basic information about your home and utility company. To see if you qualify, click here to access the online application.

Once you’re approved, you’ll get a beautiful add-on to your home energy system: A home energy cell. A home energy cell (or home battery) creates automatic backup power for your home. When the grid goes out, it instantly bypasses grid power, turning home into an “energy island” to keep you having power without missing a beat. If you have solar panels it will allow you to power your home with sun power day and night. It will also kick on when the grid is under intense demands, helping to relieve strain on the State's resources. This is why the State of California will reimburse you for installing it on your home.

The SGIP makes installing an energy storage system more appealing than ever. Now, installing a home battery in your home will not only cut your electricity bill, reduce your carbon footprint, and protect you from the next inevitable blackout, but make you eligible for free money through California’s SGIP. It’s pretty much a dream come true.

Don’t let big business eat up all of California’s SGIP funding.

Apply for your own SGIP money today, and let California pay for your home energy upgrade.