The Heated Debate Over Citizenre

The war of words has intensified in recent days over Citizenre, the new multi-level marketing business that promises to “revolutionize” the way Americans purchase their energy.

Skeptics say that Citizenre executives cannot possibly live up to many of their ambitious claims and will hurt the solar industry if consumers are deceived by false company promotions. According to Citizenre CEO David Gregg, the company plans to bring 100 megawatts (MW) of PV manufacturing capacity online by September of this year; however, groundbreaking for the plant has not yet occurred. In addition, investors have not been identified, which has some wondering if the company has any money at all. Some have gone so far as to call the company a “scam.” But executives and company supporters are encouraging the public to be patient. “This is a long term proposition for both the customer and associate and if they are willing to participate without any financial burden…then we are more than happy to deliver to them,” said Citizenre’s Gregg in an interview on RenewableEnergyAccess.com’s Inside Renewable Energy podcast. The company plans to rent PV arrays to customers over a 25-year period, with the customer paying for the clean energy generated by the system at a price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) that is less or equal to their present utility bill. There is also a $500 security deposit that will be given back to the customer when the contract expires. At last count, there were over 6,500 customers. But that does not mean that customers have signed contracts, it simply means they have expressed interest and provided some personal information. It appears that no money has yet changed hands. In order to install 100,000 residential systems per year under the REnU program when fully up and running, Citizenre plans to: 1) Build a 500 MW capacity manufacturing plant — the largest in the world — in 24 months; 2) Cut installed module costs by 50% through vertical integration and economies of scale; and 3) Create numerous teams around the country with their own trained installers and knowledgeable sales force. Citizenre claims that major financial institutions have invested $650 million to achieve these goals and get the business off the ground. The flood of criticism and bad press from industry leaders and bloggers since December of last year has put the company on the defensive; yet not much information has been released to quell concerns. Gregg said that a press release with the names of team leaders, investors and the plant location will be available in March. That information was supposed to be available in January, but the month passed with no word from Citizenre. Four Citizenre Regional Sales Directors have cut ties with the company in the last two weeks because of doubts about the business model and frustration over the lack of information from executives. These so-called “Independent Direct Sellers” did not “resign,” because they technically did not work for Citizenre. One of those former-Regional Sales Directors, Richard George, has publicly spoken out against the company. He authored a report highlighting the many internal doubts, which was recently leaked by an anonymous source to the blog site www.linkit.com. George said that his concerns were ignored. “[Executives] have been creating a culture of fear so that anyone who asks questions gets attacked for being negative or not having faith…and essentially they’re creating almost a cult-like atmosphere within the company,” said George. Two of the other three Regional Sales Directors that ended their relationship with the company did not wish to speak on the record. For the detailed story on Citizenre and more from CEO David Gregg, listen to the Inside Renewable Energy podcast linked below. To listen, just click on “Listen to Podcast” — you DO NOT need any special software to listen.
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I am a reporter with ClimateProgress.org, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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