Scanning over industry news, we noticed this piece by Newsday/News 12:
“Sunburned” – Newsday/News 12 Special Report (8/29/2018)
Without even reading it, we knew what the gist would be: a discovery piece shining light into the shadows of the solar industry. It would be a tale of well-meaning, solar-naive homeowners (just average people like you or I) who’d been taken advantage of by unscrupulous solar companies using questionable sales tactics… to rope them into signing up for a shoddy solar system under an agreement of unfavorable terms.
We’d already covered these themes in prior posts, but it was SURE NICE to see MORE quality bare-knuckles coverage through a far-higher profile outlet.
See EcoMen's Sour On Solar See EcoMen's Solar Doesn't Suck See EcoMen's Dear Real Estate Agents
While the piece is covering the Long Island NY area, the discussion points and themes apply anywhere solar is installed. I’m going to provide a synopsis of the special report by reciting what I feel are some of its more germane passages. Read them. Let them sink in. And then be sure to read our conclusion. There are good guys in solar. Its important for the solar industry and the future of energy sustainability for the public to realize this, and for the good guys to STAND UP.
Solar results in negative or no value
“We are paying more now than we did previously,” before his SolarCity panels were installed, said Edward Maccone, 77, of North Bellmore. “I lost all faith in them after seeing the numbers” in his resulting electric bills.
Pushy, high-pressure sales tactics
Critics, including consumer watchdogs, say solar customers, particularly elderly homeowners, were enticed by hard-sell tactics that didn’t pan out as promised, affecting the public perception of this fledgling industry, originally promoted by government with various tax incentives and rebates.
But even solar advocates, pleased by the industry’s overall growth during the past decade, say they’ve heard complaints of high-pressure sales tactics by some firms and a lack of sufficient oversight to curb abuses.
Misrepresented or incorrect savings forecasts
One thing I was always surprised by was when people sent me their proposals from leasing companies, they [the leasing companies] were often inflating the assumed LIPA annual rate increase.
Seemingly predatory installer behavior
Often the target customer who is ripe for abuse is somebody who is retired, has a fixed income, and who is taken in by the promise of a constant electric bill.
“Unfortunately it gives the whole industry a black eye,” Lane said. “There is a lot of profit-potential in the industry and some people are a lot more concerned with taking the profits from customers … than with delivering on promises made.
Geller’s stress level only increased when NRG announced in February of 2017 that it was exiting the home solar market on Long Island. “I think they came on the island, they got what they wanted … and left. They don’t care.”
Poor quality installations that never should have been
In some cases, homes with newly installed panels were shaded by trees or other obstacles, making them poor candidates to derive sufficient power from the sun to lower their existing electric bill, some critics and customers charged.
“There are some bad apples in any industry and any successful industry attracts some scammers, so we have heard complaints from customers,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president for state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, a nationwide trade group promoting solar since 1974. “Where there are mistakes by solar companies, we’re trying to come up with a procedure so that those mistakes aren’t repeated.”
Many of these deals included “escalator” clauses, calling for annual hikes of up to 3 percent. And the solar bill came atop of the regular monthly PSEG bills homeowners still received, particularly apparent during months when there was not enough sunlight for the solar panels to pay for themselves.
“The day after we hired contractors, we went to the bank to refinance, because the mortgage was just about paid,” he said. “And [a bank official] gave me a call back and said they can’t finish the refi because there’s a lien on my home. And I said, who has a lien on my home? We didn’t owe anybody anything. And he said, ‘The solar company.’”
Lack of accountability
SolarCity officials, now part of Tesla, declined to be interviewed.
Tesla officials, who now oversee SolarCity’s assets on Long Island, declined to be interviewed.
NRG declined to comment.
Result… poor consumer sentiment, market damage
Nationally, for the first time ever, the top 10 states for solar installations, including New York, experienced a decline, experts say, as the rush for solar power has slowed.
“No question the number of complaints and legal cases against solar leasing is contributing to this drop-off” in installations both nationally and in New York, said Tyson Slocum, an energy expert with Public Citizen, a Washington-based watchdog group.
Solar does NOT suck. Finding a company you can trust is key – a company that is TRANSPARENT and can answer ANY question you throw at them, with confidence and mastery.
Also, finding the right financial arrangement is important. For folks who continue to pay federal income tax, the right play is almost always a Solar Loan. In fact we’ve just announced new solar loan rates with Sungage Financial.
As a final bit: Newsday/News 12 provided the following summary table (taken directly from the article) which EcoMen Solar wholeheartedly agrees with. And yes, it makes us sad that the FTC and NYS attorney general had to produce such warnings.
Note: All quotes shown above were taken directly from the Newsday/News 12 Special Report.
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