Sunnova Supports Protecting Consumers
The residential solar industry is booming. In 2016, the industry grew almost 20% compared to 2015 and 2,500 MW of rooftop solar was installed. This demand stems from a clear desire on behalf of consumers to save money and have more control over their energy production and costs.
Homeowners now have a number of contract options for solar power service that include leases, power purchase agreements (PPAs), loans, property assessed clean energy (PACE) and outright purchase with no contract. At Sunnova, we offer leases, PPAs and loans and we always cover the system’s operations and maintenance needs. When deciding to sign up for solar power, it is important that consumers ensure that they are working with a reputable company that will be around in the long term to save the customer and repair the system when something goes wrong. The Solar Energy Industries Association has guidelines for consumers to follow if they are interested.
Solar companies are not fully regulated by any one entity. Sunnova believes that solar companies would benefit from more clear guidance on consumer protection issues. Because solar companies sell energy, it would make sense for them to be regulated by state Public Utility Commissions (PUCs). These state PUCs could ensure that best practices are implemented that companies must follow in order to do business.
One of the most basic but critical components of ensuring that consumers who sign up for solar power are protected is requiring companies to provide for operations and maintenance services for solar systems over the life of the system. Solar power companies should be required to provide for the continued functioning of those systems so that consumers are not saddled with a substantial investment that no longer works. At the same time, the companies providing operations and maintenance should be backed by a credit-worthy entity so that regardless of what happens to the contractor who did the original installation, the system will be monitored and maintained for the long-term.
A number of state legislatures have passed or are considering consumer protection legislation for solar customers. The U.S. Congress is also looking into this issue. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) recently introduced a bill that would require PACE lenders to disclose to homeowners that PACE imposes a lien on homes. This bill is a common-sense measure that will protect consumers without harming the industry. Sunnova fully supports this legislation and other, similar legislation that ensures companies are good actors who are honestly serving their customers.
It harms both consumers and the entire solar industry if there are no commonsense rules protecting our customers. We encourage PUCs to consider regulating solar companies as energy companies, we support common-sense legislation to benefit homeowners, and we are supportive of Senator Cotton’s bill to impose rules on PACE lenders that require reasonable efforts to protect customers. We encourage others in our industry to support these regulations to ensure that solar customers get the best deal at the best price from reputable companies who are straightforward with them—just like Sunnova is.