Evaluation reports look principally at five elements of the CSI program, covering both solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal technologies: 1) impact studies; 2) system retention and performance studies; 3) market transformation; 4) process studies; and 5) cost-effectiveness evaluations. The reports also include other types of evaluations, including audits, the SB 1-mandated Net Energy Metering (NEM) Cost-Benefit Analysis and any optional studies needed to fully evaluate the CSI program.
Impact studies provide annual summaries of the impacts of the CSI program. These include the electrical output and demand reduction associated with CSI installations; the performance of CSI installations relative to installed capacity; an estimate of greenhouse gas reductions; quantification of any impact of CSI installations on transmission and distribution system performance, reliability and operations; and project compliance with program requirements.
System Retention and Performance Studies
Retention studies assess the long-term persistence of impacts from technologies installed through the CSI by assessing technical degradation, developing an effective useful life (EUL) for each of the categories of CSI technologies and examining specific operations, including maintenance issues and characteristics, and how they relate to measured system performance and EUL.
Market Transformation Studies
A number of market transformation studies will be conducted over the course of the CSI to provide solar market intelligence to the CPUC. Pursuant to Public Resources Code (PRC) 25780 and SB 1, one of the goals of the CSI is “to install solar energy systems with a generation capacity equivalent of 3,000 megawatts, to establish a self-sufficient solar industry in which solar energy systems are a viable mainstream option for both homes and businesses in 10 years.” The market transformation studies will gauge the success of market transformation with respect to PRC 25780, SB 1 and other similar requirements.
The market studies are categorized into macro-market studies and micro-market studies. Macro-market studies will measure the CSI’s progress toward moving the market toward sustainability by looking at factors such as prices for solar power generation equipment and materials, costs of installation of solar and the number of solar installations on a statewide basis, as well as by regional markets within California. Another type of market study will assess the potential for solar projects achievable through the CSI with the allocated funding.
Micro-market studies will focus on the behaviors or needs of individual market factors as they relate to solar power generation. One area of interest, for example, is the economic factors that may potentially influence a customer’s decision-making process when considering a solar installation.
Multiple process evaluations will be conducted over the course of the CSI. These evaluations are in-depth examinations of the design, delivery and operations of the CSI in order to improve the ability of the program to achieve its objectives. Three other types of evaluations will be included under the category of process evaluation. These are administrator comparative assessments, best practices studies and audits.
Cost-effectiveness studies are conducted at the end of every second program year to capture the impacts and costs of the preceding two years. The analysis is broken down for each technology category, as well as for the program as a whole. CSI cost-effectiveness is assessed using the CPUC’s adopted cost-benefit methodology, in accordance with CPUC Decision 09-08-026 (PDF, 204 KB)
The 2011 CSI Cost-Effectiveness Evaluation considers the costs and benefits of solar PV and the CSI program from multiple perspectives: participating customers (Participant Test or PCT); program administrators (Program Administrator Cost Test (PACT)); ratepayers (Ratepayer Impact Measure (RIM) test), and society as a whole (Total Resources Cost (TRC) Test and Societal Cost Test (SCT)). From each of these test perspectives, the study quantifies the costs and benefits of solar PV installed through the program.
The CPUC hired Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3) to perform an analysis of the costs and benefits of net-energy metering (NEM), as required by Public Utility Code 2827 (c)(4). This regulation requires the CPUC to "submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature on the costs and benefits of net energy metering." The report focuses on the quantifiable incremental costs and benefits associated with the NEM mechanism. Costs are quantified in terms of bill credits calculated based on each customer generator's retail rate and the incremental billing costs associated with NEM. Benefits are quantified as the avoided costs of energy and capacity procurement.