Proudly pro-solar. Fiercely anti-solar scams

By Ron Fournier

The MI Energy Promise coalition strongly supports solar power and other renewable energies that combat climate change. We believe Michigan needs to stay on track with the 2016 bipartisan legislation that made our state a leader in clean, affordable and reliable energy.  We are for solar solutions that benefit everyone, regardless of where they live or their income levels.

What are we against? Policies and businesses models that treat any Michigander unfairly. That includes marketing practices designed to scam vulnerable Michiganders.

Attorneys General in Louisiana, Vermont, New Mexico, Mississippi, Massachusetts and Arizona are warning consumers about rooftop solar scams. Some are even filing lawsuits against these solar developers because of questionable business practices. In Boston, a man discovered after his mother’s death that the 84-year-old woman with dementia had signed a 20-year contract just two years earlier. He said of his mom, “I believe she was preyed upon.”

To be clear, Michigan has some home-grown solar developers that are good actors. But the actions of some out-of-state companies threaten to undermine the progress our state has made with solar and knock Michigan off its path to reducing carbon emissions.

The marketing machine that is fueled by these questionable business practices is now coming to Michigan.

One tactic we’ve tracked in Michigan is the use of advertising that makes disingenuous claims—like $0 down on a rooftop solar system—to gather the names and private information of potential customers, who then get hounded by sales people. There are several variations, but they almost all make claims that you can install a rooftop solar system for free.

One of the most egregious examples is the recent Power Home Solar ad being run on TV throughout southeast Michigan. It claims that Michigan’s local energy companies literally want to “inflict financial pain on the people of Michigan.”

This ad uses fear and ominous music to scare people into supporting outdated subsidies for private solar customers – a regressive policy that exempts private homeowners with solar power systems from paying their fair share for the energy grid, passing those costs on to the rest of us.

The ad says of Michigan’s energy companies: “They want to pay folks generating solar energy less and charge you more.” The reality: Special interests behind these ads want their customers to pay less – so everyone else pays more.

Power Home Solar and their industry trade group Vote Solar are pushing policies that benefit the few over the many. They’re defending dubious subsidies that make the products they’re offering more enticing to people – some of whom are hoodwinked into buying systems they don’t fully understand. One out-of-state salesman said he was taught “to schedule an at-home sales appointment where there’s an excellent chance of selling solar to families – especially the elderly – who may never financially benefit from it.”

We’re not going to let that happen in Michigan.