Roof to Outlet – New Consumer Tools for Smooth Solar Transactions

We know that commercial and utility-scale solar installations are ringing up impressive numbers of megawatts.  These vast solar power plants are bringing significant clean energy into the grid.  But, it’s the door-to-door systems that are taking solar local, as rooftop residential systems are reaching new highs, adding more solar customers and constituents to the rolls.  In 2015, residential solar was the fastest growing sector, topping 2014 numbers by 66 percent, as reported by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

This kind of growth for the residential market means that more people are sitting down with contractors and salespeople to bring solar into their homes.  As exciting and innovative as it is to have your own personal, clean power plant on the roof, signing on the dotted line can be a complicated transaction with unfamiliar contractual arrangements that need to be understood.

This is not a casual purchase nor should it be impulsive.  And navigating the terms and conditions shouldn’t be a mystery ride.

IREC’s new trio of consumer protection guidance documents includes three important pieces, taking the puzzling out of the puzzle.

The anchor is the Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights. Here, IREC steps through what are the “must dos” for protective measures covering safety issues, contractual transparency, warranties, advertising, privacy, access to the grid and consumption data.  If followed, the Bill of Rights is an enabler leading to satisfied customers who tell reassuring solar-buyer stories.

IREC’s Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights also serves as a guide for government agencies and consumer groups to reference for practices and protocols they should expect and require of clean energy service providers.  The protective measures listed in the Bill of Rights strike a fair balance for the consumer and the companies that sell products and services.

The Solar Smart Consumer Checklist is a handy, one-sheet guide that puts right into consumers’ hands the questions to ask, and the points to cover when they’re sitting with salespeople at the kitchen table discussing what could go up on their roofs.  It provides focus and an extra pair of eyes.  When followed, the Checklist can avoid problems during the negotiations and long after the transaction.  IREC encourages contractors, retail outlets, government agencies and others to distribute this Checklist as a courtesy tool for consumers.

We’ve collected some of the best additional information in Resources, the third member of the consumer trio, which digs deep into contractual issues that might require further explanations.  With links, consumers can learn about whether to lease or buy, other financial options, placement and size for the system, renewable energy credits, policies and procedures, and incentives.

Our goal for the consumer trio is not to be punitive.  In fact, it’s to be protective not only for consumers but for the market assuring positive practices that lead to more and more clean energy users.

 

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Jane has been the President and CEO of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. since 1994. From 1985 until 1991, she was the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Photovoltaic Center. In 2004, Jane was elected an America Solar Energy Society's Fellow. She serves on a number of boards including the National Advisory Board for NSF's ATE CREATE and co-chairs ANSI's Energy Efficiency Standardization Coordination Collaborative, Working Group 5. She has been chairing the national Clean Energy Workforce Education Conference since 2006. Jane has been invited by the Congress of the United States to provide expert testimony before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment to discuss workforce development and training issues. Jane received the prestigious Charles Greeley Abbot Award from the American Solar Energy Society and the Renewable Energy World's Leadership Award in policy. She has published papers and spoken widely on topics in the field of renewable energy, photovoltaics, public policy and credentialing. Jane is based out of Boston, Massachusetts and is an avid Red Sox fan.

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