Colorado Springs Utilities warns about solar panel scam

Colorado Springs put out a warning to residents of a scammer posing as Colorado Springs Utility offering free solar energy. The scammer placed calls advertising free solar panels. Unfortunately, scams in the solar industry are becoming more common. Before signing any contract be sure to check with your local utility and make sure it is real. Make Solar Safe will continue updating consumers on discovered solar scams.


Colorado Springs Utilities warns about solar panel scam 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – “We had a few reports last week of phone calls being made with someone posing as Colorado Springs Utilities offering free solar energy … which those were not legitimate calls.”

As Ellen Thommensen explained, Colorado Springs Utilities sent out an alert about a new scam after getting several calls from concerned residents about the “program.”

Phil Brodhagen, Peak View Solar’s owner said he has seen several scams surrounding solar panels.

He’s got some advice for anyone questioning an offer from a solar company.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it is,” Brodhagen said.

He told 11 News several companies offer “free” solar panels, which are actually zero money down up front solar panels, but buyers still pay a lot more than they expect.

“You will see that advertised all the time,” Brodhagen explained.

Colorado Springs Utilities suggested if anyone had any questions about solar purchases or scams such as this one, you can find answers at CSU.org.

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The problem with metering solar energy customers

Net metering is offsetting the cost of maintaining the grid for non-solar users and utilities. Costs many seem to forget about, such as costumer support, billing, and transportation are becoming a great expense for utilities having to buy low cost energy from solar users at a retail price. These expenses are shifting costs to ratepayers that are not solar. Solar users avoiding their share of the grid from retail net-metering has made it excessively more difficult for utilities to maintain capacity for the grid at fair costs. Make Solar Safe supports states making better solar practices for all consumers. 

The problem with metering solar energy customers

By Josh T. Smith

New Hampshire, Arizona, Maine, and several other states are making changes to their net metering policies for solar energy. New Hampshire recently upheld the governor’s veto of a net metering expansion bill and Arizona is fleshing out a replacement for net metering. Net metering policies determine what rooftop solar owners are paid for the electricity they feed onto the electrical grid.

Generally, it requires that utilities pay the retail rate for electricity that rooftop solar panels produce rather than the lower rates that they pay other electricity generators. That means that a solar customer who consumes about 900 kWh in a month but produces 1,000 kWh from their panels will be paid the retail rate for the excess 100 kWh. If the figures were reversed, then they would be charged for the 100 kWh difference.

Net metering is meant to promote rooftop solar adoption and green electricity supplies, yet it does so at high cost. Net metering moves the share of grid maintenance costs rooftop solar owners would normally be paying onto average utility customers — including lower-income households. 

Net metering’s cost-shift starts with how utilities charge customers for their electricity and services. Even though the costs a utility faces come from multiple sources, they largely collect their revenues from total sales.

Costs, in turn, come largely from maintaining capacity — things like having powerlines that can carry enough electricity for periods of peak demand and keeping generators on-call for when more generation is needed. There are also several fixed costs, like customer support and billing, which must be met no matter how much electricity a customer consumes that month.

This mismatch between revenues and costs makes net metering a threat to the business models of utilities across the nation. When a customer installs rooftop solar panels, they can dramatically reduce the costs the utility can charge them for since they consume significantly less electricity. That means that even if a utility spends $45 to 70 on ensuring that a consumer has power whenever they flip a light switch or plug into an outlet, the utility recoups none of those costs if the consumer’s production equals their consumption.

This $45 to 70, as estimated by Brookings Institution utility expert Lisa Wood, is the cost-shift from a single rooftop solar customer to non-solar customers when the rooftop solar customer pays a bill of zero. This doesn’t happen all of the time, but one summary of 11 different estimates of this cost-shift ranged from about $440 a year to around $1,600 a year. An estimate for the California Public Utilities Commission found that $1.1 billion of costs would be shifted each year by 2020.

The size of the cost-shift is debated amongst researchers, but no one seriously debates its existence. Studies have found strong evidence of the cost-shift under a variety of conditions and rules. For example, one 2015 paper by five engineers and electricity policy experts found that the cost-shift existed under each of the eight different policies they examined in simulations of 12 different electrical grid systems.

The cost-shift also creates regressive effects. It moves costs from the wealthy to middle-class and poor consumers. A 2018 Berkeley National Laboratory report of solar adoption and incomes in 13 states estimated that the median income of solar adopters was 54 percent higher than the median incomes of non-solar adopters. In dollar terms, that is a difference of more than $30 thousand a year.

Since the cost-shift is largely driven by poorly designed electricity rates, a straightforward policy change is to more closely associate costs and utility charges. Utilities should introduce charges for capacity, costs related to making sure the lights come on whenever consumers want them to, and fixed charges for things like billing and other customer services, alongside the existing charges for total electricity consumption. 

Indeed, the authors of the 2015 study suggest just that, utilities should make their electricity rates reflect sources of costs instead of relying on total sales alone to cover everything. Adding demand charges and fixed charges would go a long ways towards ending the regressive cost-shift that current net metering policies create.

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‘Top Chef’ star turns down plea deal for allegedly poisoning neighbor’s tree

Top chef Adam Harvey shows little remorse in court for trespassing and poisoning his neighbors seven-story-tall maple tree last June. The tree that has been around for over 60 years was targeted for blocking the young chef’s solar panels. Apparently to Harvey, being a rooftop solar owner gives him the right to take the law into his own hands. Harvey was offered a generous plea deal of no-jail-time in exchange for accepting a class-A misdemeanor and serving 35 days community service. He refused the offer and is due back in court in early October. If convicted, he may be facing up to a year locked up.

‘Top Chef’ star turns down plea deal for allegedly poisoning neighbor’s tree

By Emily Saul

What a sap!

Bad-boy chef Adam Harvey turned down a no-jail plea deal Wednesday for allegedly committing arborcide on a neighbor’s maple tree, as his attorney blasted the Brooklyn district attorney’s office for blowing his client’s case out of proportion.

The chef is accused of poisoning the elderly woman’s seven-story-tall tree because it blocked the solar panels on his $1.5 million Windsor Terrace home.

Prosecutors say he was seen drilling holes in the maple’s trunk, after his retired neighbor refused his assistance to cut down the tree, which she insisted was very much alive.

As of Wednesday, the tree’s condition was not immediately clear.

But Harvey lawyer Bruce Maffeo said prosecutors are “playing to the peanut gallery” because of the publicity surrounding the former “Top Chef” contestant’s alleged crime against flora.

Prosecutors Wednesday offered Harvey — an owner of Bar Salumi in Gowanus — a no-jail plea, in exchange for copping to a class-A misdemeanor and serving 35 days community service.

Harvey, who remained silent through the court appearance, declined the offer through his attorney.

“This was a neighborhood dispute that has been completely blown out of proportion, and gone viral and criminal,” Maffeo said following the appearance. “It was a dying tree that posed danger to my client and his young family.”

Maffeo, who recently repped MMA champ Conor McGregor following his Barclays scuffle, added that violent criminals are often offered better plea deals than the one his client just turned down.

“Hopefully the DA’s office will see reason, which so far they haven’t,” he said.

Harvey is due back in court Oct. 3.

If convicted on charges of criminal mischief and trespassing, he faces up to a year behind bars.

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Firefighters concerned about growing solar panel business, training for solar panel involved fires

Solar fires are steadily increasing, and first responders are expressing concerns on the effect solar panels and flames have when combined. Firefighters prepare to fight fire by extensive training. However, solar panels have created a dangerous electrical hazard many are unprepared for. First responders must be educated on how to disable a panel to avoid electrical shock, but many are learning on the spot. This involves knowing if the panel can be shut off and how to prevent the panel from absorbing any energy. Additional problems involving solar fires is the potential collapse of a roof under the pressure of panels and harmful toxins from the smoke. Firefighters encourage consumers considering going solar to leave one side of the roof open and free of panels for fire safety. Make Solar Safe recommends finding a trusted solar company that works with the local fire department to better protect consumers. 

Firefighters concerned about growing solar panel business, training for solar panel involved fires

By Lynda Weed

YORK COUNTY — The way firefighters do their job is changing. Solar panels are becoming more and more common and these green energy savers are also causing a concern to our first responders.

Firefighters are prepared to fight flames but the growing green trend is putting fire fighting dangers on the back burner and creating an additional electric hazard.

Dale Good is the President and C.E.O of Paradise Energy Solutions in Lancaster County. He says if firefighters are not aware that those solar panels are energized that there is a danger.

Chad Deardorff is the Deputy Fire Chief for York City. He says the firefighters in York and surrounding communities are learning about the dangers of solar panels and flames when combined.

He says the first thing they look for once on the scene of a solar involved fire is damage to the panels and if they have the ability to shut the panels down.

Deardorff says “There’s a severe risk of electrical shock for our personnel” if the panels are not properly disconnected.

Bradley Dunham is a Fire Marshal for the Pennsylvania State Police. He says emergency responders need to know how to isolate the panels to avoid injury and that firefighters must avoid any interaction with the possibly still energized panels.

Even damaged wires and damaged panels can still be energized. Dunham says firefighters must also prevent the panels from soaking in any more energy. This is important to remember even when the sun is set.

“Fire trucks at a scene and even the white light to illuminate what firefighters are doing is enough to reactivate the solar panels for them to produce electricity.” Dunham continued to say firefighters can use black roof tarps to cover the panels.

Firefighters used black roof tarps to handle a fire involving a solar array this past July in Adams County. It was on Kevin Drive in Oxford Township where first responders say solar panels made their job more difficult.

Dale Good from Paradise Energy Solutions tells us that not leaving enough space around an array sets firefighters up for potential injury. He encourages other solar panel companies and homeowners to leave one side of the roof open and free of panels.

“Some people may put more panels on a roof than what we do.” Good went on to say “The codes are out there for good purposes to protect the fire fighters.”

Professionals say a panel packed roof has the potential to collapse under fire conditions and also prevents emergency crews from venting a burning home. There’s also additional toxic smoke from burning panels that firefighters are concerned about

Deardorff did assure us that despite the dangers involving solar panels and fire that the York City Fire Department will always put the safety of residents first. “We’re here to protect whatever is thrown our way and that’s what we train for.”

As for homeowners who plan on putting solar panels on your house, professionals say the best thing you can do is to buy from a trusted company that works in partnership with your local fire department.

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Net metering is a lose-lose situation for taxpayers

Commercial energy producers are complaining about a recent change in New Hampshire’s net metering law that limits their ability to take advantage of a program meant for home owners. Net metering gives homeowners the ability to sell extra electricity produced by rooftop solar panels back to the grid at high rates. The policy shifts the cost of grid maintenance to non-solar users and allowing commercial producers to sell electricity at these high rates instead of wholesale rates paid to other commercial producers is unfair to ratepayers and net-metering users.

Net metering is a lose-lose situation for taxpayers

To The Daily Sun,

In response to the August 22 Letter from Tony Guinta and the August 23 article by Thomas Caldwell on Net Metering: Governor’s veto, as a 5 MW power plant (Solar, Hydro or BioMass) is not a residential installation, but a commercial energy producer, and as such should be paid the same rates as any other commercial energy producers.

The 1 MW limit was established to allow home owners and small business owners to offset the high cost of Electricity in this state, not to make a for-profit electricity generator company cash at the expense of the rest of the rate payers. Land required per MW is approx 5 acres (setbacks excluded). So a 5 MW system would require 25-30 acres of land.

The Bill Sponsors — Bob Giuda and Kevin Avard — advocate for the override of the Veto. If the bill sponsors wanted to use the bill for the benefit of the Biomass Industry they should not have tied it to the Net Metering bill … these are two separate issues.

The Net Metering restrictions in place keep large commercial solar and wind farms (by out-of-state firms) from disrupting the landscape. There will be no benefit to the tax payers of NH if the large commercial solar firm come to NH to install systems under subsidies, it make them more money, but does not increase the commercial taxes collected, which is a lose-lose situation for taxpayers. Instead of large power lines, which were successfully fought, along the Northern Pass, you would have eye sore large Solar farms and Wind Turbines all over the state. Most recently, there was a proposal for a 25 MW, 80,000 panel solar system in Sanbornton on private land in a rural-residential area by a Colorado firm, that would have been put on old farm fields and woodlands. The proposal would have clear-cut 50 acres of forest in the forest conservation district of the town. These are the types of projects that will flood into NH by out-of-state firms that want to reap the benefit of the subsidies without any benefit to the taxpayers. That same Sanbornton project would have been on land owned by Mr. Guinta and his family. Thus, he has a slight conflict of interest beyond his push for the “veto override” for just the City of Franklin’s growth. We all support the use of Solar and Wind projects. These commercial entities should be encouraged to come to NH, but not subsidized by the taxpayers. Let the commercial firms, large and small, in-state and out-of-state, pay their fare share to the tax base. Save the subsidies for the local homeowners that put solar panels on the rooftops, like the subsidies were meant for. Keep the VETO in place!

Mark Larocque

Gilford

Read more at: https://www.laconiadailysun.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/net-metering-is-a-lose-lose-situation-for-taxpayers/article_943fc926-a79b-11e8-ba2d-e3b252cfc901.html

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Home-alarm ripoffs and solar energy installation scams target more consumers

Consumers need to be on high alert regarding solar energy installation scams. Consumers signing up for solar installations are oftentimes given misleading informationon lease terms, billing rates, or left with damaged roofs. Survey suggest the most targeted by these scams are among the elderly and disabled. Make Solar Safe believes in the right to protect consumer safety.  

Home-alarm ripoffs and solar energy installation scams target more consumers

By Carol Wolf

Auto-sales scams and home-repair ripoffs continue to plague U.S. consumers, but home alarm system sales and solar energy installations are among the newly emerging areas where consumers need to be on alert, according to a Consumer Federation of America survey of local consumer agencies from 23 states. Many of the various scam categories that topped the list of consumer complaints in 2017 involved elderly or disabled individuals, the CFA said.

For alarm sales, scammers are sending out letters that look like they come from government agencies warning homeowners that neighborhoods might be unsafe because of the opioid crisis. The letters said the government agency was offering ‘free’ alarm systems, when in fact the contracts are loaded with clauses that could drain consumer pockets.

“Alarm systems are supposed to protect consumers, but consumers need better protection from rogue alarm companies and salespeople who try to take advantage of them,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s director of consumer protection and privacy.

Customers signing up for solar- panel installations are often lied to about the extent of credits offered by the government or are told the installations will eliminate their electric bills, the CFA said. In other cases, incompetent installers damaged roofs. 

Auto-related misrepresentations about used and new car sales as well as faulty repairs, auto leasing and towing disputes topped the list of complaints. Home-improvement and construction complaints related to shoddy workmanship or a failure to start or complete a job ranked second highest for issues that rankled consumers.

“When the car you just bought breaks down or the roofer takes your deposit and disappears, it’s not just an inconvenience, it’s a disaster,” Grant said. “These problems can cause significant financial and physical hardship for consumers.”

Among the scams reported, in Utah, an auto repair shop employee told an elderly traveler, who had stopped to get ice, that their RV tires were worn and dangerous. The shop charged the traveler $500 more than the quoted price for the tires and never got express authorization for the amount charged.

An elderly woman in Pennsylvania gave an unlicensed contractor $10,000 for roof repairs and interior work. The woman’s home health care worker had recommended the worker, who did the demolition work but never returned, leaving the home uninhabitable.

Consumer complaints related to internet sales, utilities and fraud of all kinds were the top three fastest-growing areas of complaint, the annual survey of local consumer agencies found. Complaints to the 38 local agencies surveyed numbered 908,595 last year, and the agencies reported recovering or saving consumers about $2 billion through mediation, lawsuits and other actions, according to the Federation’s survey.

The top consumer complaints for 2017 were:

Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, auto leasing, and towing disputes.

Home improvement/construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job.

Retail sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver.

Credit/debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.

Landlord/tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics.

Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform.

Communications: Misleading offers, installation issues, service problems, billing disputes with phone and internet services.

Health Products/services:Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, medical billing issues.

Household goods: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.

(Tie) Home Solicitations: Misrepresentations, abusive sales practices, and failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations, do-not-call violations; Internet sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases; Travel: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, cancellation and billing disputes. 

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IID claims Riverside ordinance on solar energy is illegal

A solar development company has convinced Riverside County, California to promote a potentially illegal policy that will have a negative consequence for their customers in order for the company to make more profit. Energy Alliance agreed to pay the court fees for a potential lawsuit in exchange for a policy of increased payouts by the area utility, however the government run utility has a state mandated payout structure at a lower rate than the county prescribed. Under the policy, Energy Alliance could sell rooftop solar panels to customers promising the county mandated retail rate for selling excess power back to the grid, but the utility would pay the wholesale rate, a significantly lower rate set by the state, possibly leading consumers to being unable to afford their new solar panels. Energy Alliance has effectively bribed Riverside County in order to make more money from consumers interested in moving to solar.

IID claims Riverside ordinance on solar energy is illegal

By Betty Miller

IMPERIAL – Antonio Ortiz, the Imperial Irrigation District’s government affairs officer, gave an update on a lawsuit filed by the District against Riverside County’s Ordinance 943, a mandate telling the District what to pay Riverside residents for rooftop solar over-generation. Ortiz gave his report during the Wednesday, July 25 regular board meeting.

Over a year ago, on March 7, 2017, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors directed its staff to propose an ordinance to require the IID to reinstitute the net energy metering solar tariff for their customers living in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County. That area includes close to 22,000 households and businesses.

Ortega said IID sent representatives to Riverside to argue the ordinance would be contrary to state law. The California legislature, moved by residential solar developers, required utilities, including the IID, to offer net energy metering solar tariffs, until the megawatts reimbursed was equivalent to five percent of that utility’s peak load. Under the law, utilities were mandated to pay rooftop solar homeowners retail for their over-generated electricity instead of buying it back at wholesale prices.

The IID met the State requirement in the first quarter of 2016, according to Ortega, and voluntarily extended the net energy metering solar payback to additional applicants until the utility exceeded the state mandate.

After the program was fulfilled, the IID board adopted a successor solar tariff, net energy billing, with the difference being the retail buyback rate. Since changing to net energy billing, IID customers have installed close to 900 solar systems, he said.

IID officials said it appeared Riverside had discontinued its ordinance, until a residential solar developer promised Riverside County they would pay all court costs if the ordinance was challenged. Riverside County then unanimously adopted Ordinance No. 943. In response, the IID filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate July 13 asking the Superior Court for an order to stop the enforcement of the ordinance and ultimately rescind it altogether.

Because the IID’s power rates charged to customers is one of the lowest in the State, the retail price is also lower to buy back the over-generated power produced by solar rooftop panels.

Riverside solar companies have said the 22,000 houses in IID’s electrical grid cannot have solar panels because the price does not pencil out to pay for the installation. That is why the Riverside County Board of Supervisors mandated the IID pay at the higher retail rate charged by the other electrical company in the area.

IID General Manager Kevin Kelley said Riverside is encroaching on the District’s rate setting. He reminded board members that embedded in the Riverside ordinance are criminal sanctions if it is not followed.

Maria Severson, outside counsel for the District, agreed the ordinance was unusual with one government entity dictating to another. It gives the IID 90 days to comply or they would be subject to escalating criminal penalties, starting with a misdemeanor and adding fines and penalties.

Besides Riverside dictating how much the district pays for over-generation of electricity, if too many people participate, it affects the whole IID grid and the ability to distribute energy, Kelley added. The IID is forced to pay retail in buying back the unused energy, even though it could buy energy cheaper on the open market or generate their own, he explained.

The ordinance is unlawful, Severson told the board. Once the state has occupied a field of law, enacted law, she said, Net Energy Metering does not allow counties or other public entities to enact laws to re-regulate a State law, because it has already been regulated by the State.

Also, before Riverside docketed the ordinance, they admitted they entered into an indemnification agreement between the solar developer, Energy Alliance, and the county.

“The agreement was signed in early June by the County chair, and what you have is a for-profit company,” Severson said. “A developer, with a potential market of 22,000 homes to sell solar panels to, is proposing the ordinance and has told the county that if you get sued, if this is challenged, we will pay for it, don’t worry about it. Under the laws of California, that is a question of whether that is lawful.”

Kelley said in addition to the potential unlawfulness of the ordinance, the courts should not allow the two valleys to fight over IID’s rate structure. Solar power companies say that with IID’s low rate for over-generation, it does not pencil out for homeowners to install solar panels.

Ortega mentioned the solar developer’s business model does not succeed without government aid, in this case, it would be payments by the IID equaling what the higher charging Southern Edison pays. Ortega called it “welfare.”

“What makes this especially bad,” said Ortega, “you are giving aid to an area and companies that need it least. Usually welfare is to those that have the need. But it shifts from a poor community paying welfare to a rich community.”

IID Director Bruce Kuhn said he had asked the solar company if they could make a profit without a subsidized contract. They answered in the negative, he said.

“You should get into another line of business,” Kuhn said he advised them.

Ortega said the recently imposed tariffs on imported solar panels are going to raise developers’ costs even more, and they would then require higher subsidies.

“The federal and state government handed out many incentives and subsidies to get renewable energy companies launched,” Ortega said. “And they have stayed dependent on those handout models. “

“This is not what IID would have chosen,” Kelley concluded. “This is not the outcome we hoped for a year ago. Now that we are here. But as the board, you have no choice but to stick up for the ratepayers as a whole.”

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The Incredible Scam of Rooftop Solar

As more homeowners install rooftop-solar, new issues are arising. Too much solar is putting a strain on the local electric grids. Rooftop solar panels push unused power onto the grid during the day when no one is home and power consumption is lowest, the grid is forced to waste this energy whenever consumption falls below the base load supplied by local power plants. This is a waste of energy and utility payers’ money.

Net Metering policy is attractive in theory, but terrible in practice. Under many states’ net metering policies, rooftop solar costumers get to displace power from the utility company, and if the homeowner has more power than needed, the utility company is required to purchase the excess power at a retail price. By being forced to buy this energy at the high retail price, utilities must shift the cost of grid maintenance and other costs to non-solar customers. Forcing utilities o buy overpriced rooftop electricity results in higher costs on non-solar grid users and taxpayers.

The Solar industry has pushed net metering on utilities at absurdly electric rates. It is a policy that is touted to help Americans have a lower electrical cost by going solar, but raises the rates on non-solar users.

The Incredible Scam of Rooftop Solar

By Norman Rogers

A modest proposal:

We’ve all heard about “shop local” and “get your food from local farmers, not distant corporate farms.”  Lots of people have apple trees in their backyards.  Often they can’t begin to eat or give away all the apples.  In the meantime, big supermarkets sell corporate apples for one dollar a pound and up.  I propose that people with backyard apples be able to take them to the supermarket and sell them to the supermarket for the same price at which the supermarket is selling apples.  Furthermore, they should be able to take them at any time and receive payment.  If the store gets too many local apples, it can reduce its purchase of corporate apples.

My apple proposal may seem ill advised, but that is exactly how rooftop solar power works.  The homeowner gets to displace power from the power company, and if the homeowner has more power than he needs, the power company is obligated to purchase it, often for the same retail price at which it sells electricity.  That policy is called net metering.  In order to accommodate the homeowner’s electric power, the utility has to throttle down some other power plant that produces power at a lower wholesale price.

The exact arrangements for accepting rooftop solar vary by jurisdiction.  In some places, net metering is restricted in one way or another.

A large-scale natural gas-generating plant can supply electricity for around 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Rooftop solar electricity costs, without subsidies, around 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, or five times as much.  Average retail rates for electricity in most places are between 8 cents and 16 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Yet, paradoxically, the homeowner can often reduce this electric bill by installing rooftop solar.

It is actually worse than forcing the power company to take 30-cent electricity that it could get from a natural gas plant for 6 cents.  When the company throttles down a natural gas plant to make room for rooftop electricity, it is not saving six cents, because it already has paid for the gas plant.  All it saves is the marginal fuel that is saved when the plant is throttled down to make room for the rooftop electricity.  The saving in fuel is about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour.  So 30-cent electricity displaces grid electricity and saves two cents.

But where does the other 28 cents come from?  Who pays for that?  Part is paid for by the federal 30% subsidy for solar energy construction cost.  That takes care of about nine cents per kilowatt-hour.  That leaves the homeowner with electricity costing him 21 cents per kilowatt-hour.  The cost comes from his monthly payments on the loan to build the solar system divided by the number of kilowatt-hours generated that month.  If he pays cash for the solar system, then the monthly cost is his lost investment return on the cash he paid.  If he lives in a jurisdiction where electricity costs 11 cents, then he is losing 10 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated (21 cents minus 11 cents).  But if he lives in California, where larger home users of electricity pay 53 cents per kilowatt-hour if they consume beyond a baseline limit, he saves 32 cents for each kilowatt-hour of solar electricity generated.  In that case, the power company is losing kilowatt-hours it could have sold for 53 cents.  Other customers have to pay more to make up the lost revenue.

From the standpoint of society, rooftop solar substitutes 30-cent electricity in order to save two cents.  If the homeowner is at least breaking even, as he usually is, he hasn’t lost anything due to the substitution.  The money to pay for the 30-cent electricity comes from the taxpayer-provided subsidy and revenue that is no longer paid to the power company.  The taxpayers and power company pay for 30-cent electricity that could have been obtained for two cents by burning a little more natural gas.  If the homeowner makes a profit on the solar power, then the burden on everyone else is even greater.  Since the power company is guaranteed a rate of return, or at least has to break even, rates have to be raised enough to pay for the overpriced rooftop electricity.  The burden falls on society to pay for the scheme.  The purveyors of rooftop solar, crackpot environmentalists and rooftop solar-owners, are happy.  Everyone else is screwed.

Here is an example of rooftop solar that costs 30 cents a kilowatt-hour.  A 5-kilowatt rooftop system costs about $21,000 installed.  It will generate 7,000 kilowatt-hours per year.  If it is financed over 20 years at 8% interest, the annual payment will be $2,139.  The cost per kilowatt-hour is $2,139/7,000 = $0.306, or 30.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Of course, costs and interest rates vary, as does sunshine.  If you think 8% is too high for the interest rate, ask yourself if you would loan your neighbor $21,000 for 20 years for less.  Rooftop solar is expensive compared to utility-scale solar, because it is a small custom installation.  The orientation and slope of the house roof may be less than ideal.  Large-scale utility solar, in contrast, can be as cheap as seven cents per kilowatt-hour.

An increasing problem, already present in California, is too much solar.  The electric grid has a combination of base load power and additional peaking loads.  The base load runs 24 hours a day and is not easy to throttle down.  Solar power peaks around midday.  If there is so much solar as to threaten the base generation, solar has to be curtailed.  In California, this happens in the spring, when sunshine is plentiful but the air-conditioning load is not yet large.  When solar dies, in the hour before sunset, peak power consumption is often being reached.  In that case, solar aggravates the rate at which the rest of the grid has to increase power output to handle the early evening peak.  If the homeowner is at least breaking even, he is probably generating surplus electricity during the middle of the day, adding more solar during the critical midday period and increasing the size of the sudden surge in power demand when the sun fades.

Utility-scale solar costing seven cents is a big waste of money.  Rooftop solar costing 30 cents is insane.  Special interests  – the solar industry and environmentalist crackpots – have convinced legislatures and public utility commissions to stack the deck with net metering and absurdly high tiered electric rates.  The result is to make it profitable for homeowners to invest in what otherwise would be very expensive electricity.  Society as a whole pays for the economic waste, amounting typically to 28 cents per kilowatt-hour of rooftop electricity.

It is foolish to justify rooftop solar on the grounds of reducing CO2 emissions, because if you work the numbers, it costs about $800 to avoid emitting a metric ton of CO2 using rooftop solar.  You can buy a carbon offset that does the same thing for $10.  Reducing CO2 emissions is dubious in any case.  Global warming-climate change ideology is struggling because warming is not remotely meeting expectations.  Believers are starting to lose their faith in global warming.  It is dawning on them that global warming is another scary disaster in a long parade of scary disasters that never materialize but make money for interested parties.  Fewer people want to waste billions on a quixotic quest for renewable power.

The most prominent remaining global warming believers are now advocating nuclear power as the best means of reducing CO2 emissions.  CO2 is plant food that makes plants grow better with less water.  It greens deserts and increases agricultural productivity.  Bring it on.

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Solar power: This NJ woman said she was burned; here’s how to save money and headaches

Leasing solar panels is one of the cheapest ways to become solar, quickly making it the most attractive way to purchase it. Unfortunately, many issues have been arising from misleading lease terms resulting in increasing bill rates over time and contracts lasting 20 or more years. It is important for consumers to know what to look for before signing any contract in order to avoid major setbacks. Make Solar Safe prioritizes consumers rights to safety when going solar.

Solar power: This NJ woman said she was burned; here’s how to save money and headaches

By David P. Willis

Nearly five years ago, Karen Coon signed up to put solar panels on her Lacey home without any upfront cost. She was attracted to the advertising and sales pitch that promised big savings on her monthly energy bills.

Coon said she didn’t realize that when she signed the contract to lease the panels from Tredegar Solar Fund the agreement had a built-in rate hike that boosted the cost for her solar-generated electricity by 2.9 percent every year for 20 years.

With compounding, a $200-a-month bill today could top $340 a month at the end of the two decades — a 72 percent increase over the life of the contract.

Now, Coon said shemade a mistake in signing up for solar power.

Coon,72, said she thought the monthly electricity price of about $111 quoted by a sales person wouldn’t change. The solar-powered utility bill would be about half of what she paid per month to Jersey Central Power & Light in 2013.

“I was under the impression I was paying a lease for solar panels that would be the same amount every month for 20 years,” Coon said.

By 2018, however, Coon’s annual savings were virtually nonexistent.

While she saved about $36 a month during the first couple of years of her solar power agreement, the energy from the sun sometimes had to be supplemented the old-fashioned way — with electricity from JCP&L, a Press on Your Side review of her contract and utility bills from 2013 through 2017 showed.

Her pre-solar July 2013 JCP&L bill, for example, was $206. Her July 2017 bill for only the solar power from Tredegar was $199. Add in another $112 for JCP&L energy and her monthly utility bill was $312. 

Dallas-based Tredegar, a privately held fund, could not be reached for comment.

In an emailed statement, a representative for Spruce Finance, which provides customer support services for Tredegar, said: “We strive to help our customers resolve any issues they may have with their solar agreements and we encourage this homeowner to reach out to our homeowner support team with any issues they may have with their solar agreement, including options for contract termination if they have not done so already.”

Coon said she has called Tredegar to complain about her changing bill. “It was a runaround and didn’t make any sense,” she said. “I called at least two times and then I gave up.”

While thousands of solar customers in New Jersey appear to be satisfied with their leases, a number of homeowners have formally complained about their solar contracts. 

The Better Business Bureau has processed 125 complaints regarding New Jersey-based solar equipment dealers since June 2015, including 45 in 2016 and 33 in 2017, said Melissa Companick, president and chief executive officer. It’s a small number compared to 31,625 complaints processed by the BBB about cellphone companies over the past three years.

But complaints about solar companies over the last 12 months allege misrepresentation of contracts, such as the ability to cancel and the amount of savings to be realized, she said.

“Consumers also allege difficulty contacting the business to get issues resolved,” Companick said.

Coon has not filed a complaint. On BBB’s website, Tredegar Solar has a D+ rating, on the A to F scale.

Solar energy is booming in New Jersey. The Garden State ranks number 5 in the United States behind No. 4 Nevada and No. 1 California, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.

The sun, which provides 3.9 percent of the state’s electricity, powers 382,000 homes in New Jersey, according to SEIA figures.

 As of March 31, more than 90,000 solar projects have been installed in the Garden State, 94 percent were atop homes and the remaining were commercial installations.

“It has been very popular and continues to be popular,” said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which oversees the state’s clean energy program.

What you need to know before you sign

Many solar companies offer to lease panels to customers, the least expensive way to go solar. 

Solar panels bolted to the roof generating pollution-free electricity from the sun’s rays is a big selling point for the environmentally minded. There’s also the prospect of cheaper electric bills and no upfront costs.

Even if you don’t have to pay for installation, there are strings attached. A solar contract can be a 20-year, or longer, commitment.

Contracts may come with automatic rate increases each year. You may also be unable to get out of the deal without buying the system for thousands of dollars.

And ironclad, you-can’t-sue-us clauses will force you to take any dispute to an arbitrator, usually chosen by the company if there’s an issue, said Joseph A. Osefchen, a Marlton attorney who specializes in class actions and has reviewed solar contracts. 

Before you sign up for solar, review every word of the contract, seek legal advice if you are unsure of a term, and ask the following questions:

  • Will your monthly rate per kilowatt hour, or monthly charge to lease the panels, increase automatically every year?
  • What will happen if you, or your heirs, want to sell your house?
  • How can you get out of the contract and what could it cost?
  • If you encounter a problem, can you sue the company?

Solar power does have benefits for many homeowners, advocates say.

“People are getting more aware that solar can save them money,” said Vikram Aggarwal, founder and chief executive officer of EnergySage, a website that helps consumers compare solar companies, offers and technology. “You can lock in your electricity costs. It is good for the environment.”

It can be expensive to put solar panels on your house if you want to forgo leasing a system. Depending on how many panels you want, a solar system in New Jersey typically costs a homeowner $10,000 to $20,000, according to EnergySage.

Those costs are tempered by a 30 percent federal tax credit and the sale of solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, which go to the owner of the solar power system and represent the renewable qualities of solar power. They accrue for every megawatt generated by the system and are sold on a commodities market to utilities and power suppliers.

For instance, a SREC in May was worth $212, according to the New Jersey Clean Energy program’s website. A 10-kilowatt solar system takes about one month to generate a megawatt, EnergySage states.

If you buy a system, you get all the benefits of your panels: the free solar electricity, the tax credit and the solar renewable energy certificates.

Solar companies offer other alternatives. Leases, where you pay a flat rate every month, and power purchase agreements, where you only pay for the solar electricity generated by the system. You don’t have to worry about maintenance. The company monitors the system and takes care of any problems.

But you don’t own the solar panels. That means you won’t get the tax credit or solar renewable credits, but you will get a credit on your utility’s electric bill if the solar system produces more electricity than you use and sends it to the grid for your neighbors.

In addition to the monthly bill from the solar company for the power generated by the system, you’ll still receive a utility bill. You’ll pay the utility if your solar system doesn’t generate enough electricity for your house.

Charges, leases and power purchase agreements are typically lower than the utility’s prices, giving the homeowner savings, said Lyle Rawlings, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Bordentown.

Leases are popular,said Rawlings, who also is president and chief executive officer of Advanced Solar Products in Raritan Township.

“People seem attracted to not having to put money up front,” he said. “They don’t have to go through all the logistics of finding someone to hire (to install the system) and figuring out the design and having it approved. It’s easy and it doesn’t require them to invest.” Lease or buy? Check out the video at the top of this story on the differences.

It’s not a decision that consumers should make quickly, solar experts agree.

“We find it incredibly important to make sure the consumers fully understand the transaction,” said Thomas P. Kimbis, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s executive vice president and general counsel. “Am I even right for going solar?” 

Here are five ways to help a move to solar go smoothly:

1.Know your situation. How much electricity does your house use a month? You’ll need to know so your system can be designed properly. What’s the condition of the roof and its shingles? “If some are cracking, that is an indication they need to replace the roof,” Rawlings said. How is the roof situated? Remember that a roof that faces north doesn’t get direct sunlight, so it’s not right for solar panels.

“People should beware of people coming and saying we will put solar on the northside of your house or when you have trees shading the whole roof,” Rawlings said.

EnergySage has a handy online calculator to help estimate your solar savings based on your address.

2. Research the solar companies. Find at least three installers, compare their offers and even try to negotiate rates and other terms. Ask for references and call them. Check out reviews online and the Better Business Bureau. According to New Jersey’s Office of Clean Energy, you can call the New Jersey Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractor’s license verification line at 973-273-8090 to find out if a contractor has pending or active judgments. A solar installer also must be registered with the state Division of Consumer Affairs as a home improvement contractor.

The industry is competitive. According to the SEIA, there are 363 solar installers and developers in New Jersey, so there are plenty of choices. “If a company has terms they don’t like, find another,” Rawlings said.

3. Will your rate change? If you have a power purchase agreement or lease, your rate may go up annually. Why? The increase is intended to account for the fact that utility electric rates typically increase, said Steven Burg, associate general counsel for Vivint Solar, a Utah-based company that does business in New Jersey.

But utility electric rates are impossible to predict. “We don’t make any assumption on that being the case,” he said. “Our business in based on that increase.”

At some point, you may pay more than the utility rate.

“There is a possibility that there will be a year or maybe longer when the rate will be higher for the solar than it is for the utility,” Burg said. Vivint’s power purchase agreements have a 2.9 percent annual increase. “It is reasonable to assume that over the life of the agreement that the utility rate will, over time, increase by more than 2.9 percent a year, but there is no way to know.”

4. What will happen if you have to sell your house? Typically, a homeowner or heir has the option to transfer the agreement to the new homeowner. The new owner would pick up the monthly payments. A contract also can allow a homeowner to buy the panels or prepay the agreement for the new owner.

Sometimes a solar company will move a system for a fee to a customer’s new home, Kimbis said. 

What you can’t do is just cancel the agreement or forget about the payments once you sign on the dotted line.

Solar system owners file a legal personal property notice, called a Uniform Commercial Code filing or asset lien, that informs homeowners, prospective homebuyers and everyone else that a company owns the solar panels on the roof.

While it won’t hold up a home sale, the homeowner must satisfy the terms of the lease or power purchase agreement or be in violation of the contract, Kimbis said.

The UCC lien protects the owner of the solar panels and gives them the right to remove them if there’s a violation of the contract, said Toms River lawyer Harold Hansel, who specializes in real estate law. 

But typically, a solar agreement is transferred to a new homeowner.

“The solar companies don’t want to come and take their panels back,” Hansel said. “They are going to encourage the assignment” of the lease to the new homeowner.

It’s something you should know about before you sign a contract.

“The important point here is that before entering into a lease or a PPA, the homeowner should ask the solar company about his/her options upon moving,” Kimbis wrote in an email.

At least one state views the PPAs and 20-year leases as “fraud.” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit in March against Vivint, one of the largest solar companies in the nation, claiming in court papers that the company’s liens, sales tactics and built-in annual rate hikes were akin to “fraud and racketeering.” Vivint denied the claims, saying it does not jeopardize a homeowner’s right to sell his or her property.

For New Jersey consumers, the SEIA offers a consumer guide online to help homeowners navigate their decision to go solar, Kimbis said.

How does a solar system affect the value of your house? Solar adds value at a rate of 90 times the monthly savings, said Jeffrey Otteau, president of the Otteau Valuation Group in Matawan. So if solar saves $100 a month, the panels will add $9,000 in home value, he said.

But that diminishes as the panels get older. And where they are located on the roof matters.

“When the panels face the street, they will have a detrimental effect on value because of their influence on curb appeal,” Otteau said.

5. Read your contract. Every word. “This is a contract that you really need to understand before you sign,” said the BBB’s Companick. “Don’t fall victim into being pressured into signing a contract. A legitimate company will leave it with you, give you time and you can sign it on your time.”

Coon, of Lacey, signed a contract with Tredgar Solar in November 2013 to put solar panels on her roof. Her solar system, which was installed after her roof was replaced, was turned on in early 2014. She decided to go solar after hearing an advertisement on the radio. 

“I thought it would be an economically sound thing to do and would cut down on my bills,” Coon said.Although she didn’t realize it was in her contract, she said she was not told she would have to pay for each kilowatt hour generated by her panels.

Coon discovered that her bill from Tredegar Solar was different every month. It was higher in the summer and lower in the winter, the peak and low periods for a solar system. She also discovered that her electric rate increased every year.

Press on Your Side looked at Coon’s electric bills and payments, and compared them with an eight-month period after she moved back into her home in 2013 following repairs from superstorm Sandy. The bottom line: Coon saw the most savings in 2014, the first year. Those savings lessened afterward.

For an eight-month period in 2014, the first year she had solar power, Coon saved $321 on her electric bill, an average of $40 a month, over the same period in 2013. Her savings dropped to $256, or an average $32 a month, in 2015 compared to the time when she didn’t have solar.

For the eight-month period in 2016, solar alone saved her $261, but when JCP&L supplemental power was added in, she ended up spending $57 more on her electric bill that in 2013, her pre-solar year. Her total average monthly bill, with solar and JCP&L, in 2017 was a wash as she paid an average $2 a month more.

According to her power purchase agreement, her estimated average monthly payment in the first year of her agreement was $119. Coon’s bills show the solar cost averaged $132 a month that year.

“I wouldn’t have done it again,” Coon said. “To me, I am not getting any benefits from it. I don’t think I am.”

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Canadian owner of Michigan company gets 21 felonies in solar powered generator scam

Owner of the Michigan-based solar company, VSP North America, has recently been arrested for a solar-powered generator scam. Investors were conned out of millions of dollars believing the company worked in manufacturing solar-powered generators. Investors were told that VSP sells generators to dealers across the United States and sells the invoices to investors at a 20 percent discount.  Under these false pretenses investors never received any of the promised payments. On Friday, Von Stach was charged with 21 felonies in connection with the $2 million generator investment scam.

Canadian owner of Michigan company gets 21 felonies in solar powered generator scam

By Derick Hutchinson

LANSING, Mich. – The Canadian owner of a Michigan-based energy company has been charged with 21 felonies in connection with a $2 million generator investment scam, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced.

John Von Stach and VSP North America are each charged with one count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony, and 20 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses.

Von Stach is accused of scamming multiple investors out of millions of dollars in a solar-powered generator scam through his company.

“This individual is alleged through the guise of his company to have taken advantage of Michigan residents and their hard-earned money for personal gain,” Schuette said. “I want to thank my Corporate Oversight Division for their dedication to uncovering fraud and protecting Michigan residents.”

An investor in Von Stach and his business filed a complaint alleging that he hadn’t received the funds promised to him. Investigators found multiple others had responded to advertisements seeking investors for VSP.

VSP sold itself as a renewable energy company that specializes in manufacturing solar-powered generators. Investors were told that VSP sells generators to dealers across the United States and sells the invoices to investors at a 20 percent discount, officials said.

The dealer then paid the full amount of the invoice to the investor within 90 days, according to officials.

It is alleged that the generators sold to dealers were sold on consignment and could be returned if not sold.

Investigators said many others fell victim to the scheme, totaling more than $2 million.

Here are the charges against Von Stach:

  • One count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony;
  • Eight counts of false pretenses $100,000 or more, a 20-year felony;
  • Two counts of false pretenses $50,000 or more but less than $100,000, a 15-year felony;
  • Five counts of false pretenses $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, a 15-year felony; and
  • Five counts of false pretenses $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, a five-year felony.

Von Stach was arrested Friday when he entered Michigan from Canada. He and his company were arraigned Monday, and he is being held on $1.5 million bail.

Von Stach is also required to stay in Michigan and surrender his passport. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 19.

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