Russ Aney's Comments

November 09, 2012

The Question Day 32: What is the Most Difficult Issue Facing the Solar Industry?

This series of discussions with industry leaders has been interesting to read. Some of the leaders have shared some thoughtful ideas beyond industry platitudes. The run-on nature of the articles and the associated comments, however, has made it difficult for your readers to engage in a continuing discussion re some of the key insights. It would have been better to have had a separate Comment section for each article. Can you change this mid-stream, as the series of interviews/opinions appears to be continuing?

October 16, 2012

Treasury Dept. Fingers SolarCity in Exploration of the Dark Underbelly of Solar Leasing

Shame on the appraisers who assessed the fair market value of these systems so high vs. the cash price for which others were willing to install similar systems. This will garner a lot of ugly press and help certain folks in Washington lead a charge against the 30% ITC for renewable energy projects. It puts the entire solar (renewable) industry at risk for the next few years. Shame also on Solar City for not challenging the excessively high FMV's, regardless of whether its financing partners encouraged them. This is the kind of crap that makes the average citizen abhor Wall Street banks: it may be legal, but a lot of it is not very ethical in how they knowingly navigated the rules.

There is an arbitrage opportunity for a commercial entity to be the lessor (owner) of a residential system, especially if the commercial entity has a large tax appetite, because a commercial entity can recover its capital through depreciation tax deductions in addition to the ITC and other available state & local incentives.

Some have used leasing so that the commercial entity is able to lease a system or even to offer a "prepaid lease" for less than the cash cost of a residential buyer. There are risks to the lessor and additional responsibilities (inter-creditor risks in the event of foreclosure; performance risks; maintenance responsibilities), and those need to be factored into the price of the lease, but clearly installation companies have determined that it can be done for less than the cash price. It's too bad that this technique was abused. I fear the reaction this will cause, and the damage it could do to the solar industry.

Leasing can still offer the admirable value proposition of $0 down and a lower electric bill without resorting to inflated FMVs. For the others out there inflating FMVs above the local, comparable cash installation price, please stop the practice before you kill the ITC.

May 02, 2013

Treasury Dept. Fingers SolarCity in Exploration of the Dark Underbelly of Solar Leasing

The oil depletion allowance continues, and it is used to essentially treat the value of oil in the ground as a capital investment that can be expensed over time (up to the value paid for it), similar to how businesses can depreciate their investments in capital equipment. Some would argue that oil in the ground should not be expensed as if it were a piece of equipment. This unique tax benefit for extraction industries is not a myth. See current IRS Pub 535.

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