TECH Clean California: $120M in Good News for the Climate

The recent launch of TECH Clean California represents a significant milestone in the effort to equitably decarbonize California’s buildings in line with our pressing climate goals. What’s in the $120 million program, and how can Californians take advantage TECH's electrification incentives today?

View of the San Francisco skyline
Credit: Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash

A long-awaited win for equitable building decarbonization in California is now coming to fruition with the launch of TECH Clean California: a $120 million initiative designed to kickstart the market for clean and efficient electric space and water heating technologies in alignment with the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals. The initiative is designed with equity in mind, distributing at least 40 percent of program benefits to Californians from low-income and disadvantaged communities. California customers can learn more about TECH on The Switch Is On website and can work with a TECH-participating contractor in their area to take advantage of TECH’s midstream electrification incentives. 

The TECH Clean California initiative was established by Senate Bill 1477 (Stern) in 2018 and has been brought to life by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and organizations including Energy Solutions, the Association for Energy Affordability, Building Decarbonization Coalition, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, and other partners. With various programs launching in 2021 and 2022 that range from single- and multi-family incentive programs to contractor- and public-facing outreach on electric appliances, TECH represents a milestone in California’s efforts to decarbonize the building sector and combat climate change.

Unboxing TECH Clean California: What’s in the $120 million package?

1. Single-family incentives program 

In December 2021, TECH Clean California launched its single-family electrification incentives program. The program seeks to activate the supply chain for clean heating appliances by providing incentives through contractors for the installation of heat pump (HP) space and water heating in single-family homes. For any HP HVAC installation, projects can receive at least $3,000, while any heat pump water heater (HPWH) installation can receive at least $3,100 for replacement of a gas appliance or $1,000 for replacement of an electric resistance appliance. In enhanced regions, where TECH incentives can complement offerings from the local utility, projects can earn up to $6,600 for either appliance type.  

Map of eligible baseline and enhanced TECH territories

A map of eligible baseline and enhanced TECH territories

Credit: From the TECH Clean California website

California customers seeking to replace a carbon-emitting gas appliance—or an electric resistance appliance—with a more climate-conscious option can expect to save money by working with a TECH Participating Contractor. Visit the TECH website to learn if incentives are available in your zip code and to view a list of eligible appliances, and visit The Switch Is On’s Contractor Directory to find a contractor.

2. Multifamily incentives program 

The TECH multifamily incentive program supports projects that install efficient electric appliances anywhere in gas investor-owned utility (IOU) territory, which covers most of the state. Incentives are available for HVAC installations in individual apartments and common areas, unitary and central HPWH installations, HP pool and spa heating upgrades, and even for electrical panel upgrades to accommodate the additional electric load. Contractors and property owners can reserve up to $3 million in beneficial electrification incentives now via the TECH websiteTo better reach low-income customers living in multifamily housing, TECH also supports multifamily property owners and contractors with specific electric design and appliance installation training. 

3. Contractor engagement, outreach, and training 

A key component of TECH’s market transformation strategy is their contractor engagement, outreach, and training programming. To date, the TECH Program has conducted outreach to nearly 500 contractors, hosted kick-off events with HVAC and water heater distributors, and collaborated with manufacturers, distributors, utilities, and contractor trainers to expand existing HP space and water heating training programs. Throughout the month of January 2022, the TECH Program also offered their own workforce education and training workshops for the builder community. 

Technician installing a rooftop heat pump system

Photo by RossHelen on iStock

The program’s equity focus extends to their contractor engagement, providing additional support to contractors who serve and hire from low-income communities by aiding their workforce growth and helping them license their projects. You can learn more about TECH’s workforce engagement here

4. Marketing and customer engagement

TECH enables customer education and engagement across California through “The Switch is On” campaign. The new The Switch Is On website provides Californians with the tools, support, and resources necessary to learn about building electrification and make the switch to clean and efficient electric appliances. The campaign is also building out and accepting applications for its Neighborhood Ambassador program, a community-based effort to educate communities across California about the benefits of home electrification. 

5. Regional pilot programs and quick start grants 

Finally, the TECH Program attempts to address key, existing barriers to HP adoption through a series of Regional Pilot Programs and Quick Start Grant projects. The six Regional Pilot Programs include efforts to integrate TECH incentives with existing low-income programs, streamline the permitting process for electrification retrofits, and provide technical support to multifamily electrification retrofit projects, among other initiatives that will address barriers to equitable electrification in existing buildings.  

The Quick Start Grants are available to projects that install HP space and water heaters and have a clear potential to scale. TECH Clean California has selected eleven projects for Quick Start Grants to date, with 73 percent of funding allocated to projects that will serve low-income or historically-disadvantage populations. The projects seek to address a range of electrification barriers, with the end goal of making installation projects quicker, more affordable, and more inclusive. For example, recently allocated Quick Start Grants will support electrification in rural and Native American communities in Humboldt County, remediate home health hazards via electrification in low-income West Oakland households, and install a central HP boiler in farmworker community housing in Delano, CA, to name only a few. Organizations will be able to apply for the second round of Quick Start Grants beginning in Fall 2022. 

Aerial image of a neighborhood with rooftop solar panels

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

The launch of TECH Clean California represents a significant milestone in California’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions from buildings and combat climate change. However, the funding currently allocated to the TECH Program is just the start of what the state needs to invest to equitably decarbonize buildings. Achieving market transformation for clean, electric appliances on the timeline necessary to meet California’s climate goals will require investment on the scale of the California Solar Initiative, which invested more than $2 billion between 2007 and 2016 to transform the rooftop solar market in the Golden State. Still, the current phase of the TECH Program is a significant first step that will bring California closer to equitably meeting our fast-approaching climate objectives.  

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