MARCH 8, 2022
COMMENTS FROM CONNECTICUT SOLAR & STORAGE ASSOC. (CONNSSA) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MIKE TRAHAN TO CGA ENERGY & TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE ON: Raised Bill No. 5326 AN ACT CONCERNING RESIDENTIAL SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS SOLICITATIONS AND REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS INVOLVING SOLAR
CONNSSA is the state’s business group for residential solar installers and commercial solar developers employing more than 2,000 residents who supply, sell, design, engineer and install solar electric (photovoltaic) energy products in Connecticut. Nearly 50,000 Connecticut homeowners and hundreds more commercial property owners have installed solar.
Connecticut solar installer companies last year offered to meet with proponents of a bill similar to 5326 to iron out a path forward that would address concerns. We were not contacted. Today, we make the same offer to sit with bill proponents to address their concerns.
As for the bill, there’s a long list of regulators (from local town officials to federal authorities) that currently oversee home solar door to door sales. We ask Committee members to consider the existing municipal, state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), Connecticut Office of Education, Outreach & Enforcement (EOE), and federal consumer protection policies, ordinances and laws already in place that speak to door to door sales activities including solar.
Most Connecticut cities and towns have local ordinances regarding solicitations. Some require door-to-door solicitors to register for a permit at Town Hall, and to carry the issued permit with them.
At the state level, those who conduct solar sales conversations with homeowners must hold DCP licensing and accreditation and conduct themselves accordingly or risk DCP enforcement action. DCP administers the Connecticut “Home Solicitation Sales Act” that prohibits sellers from engaging in deceptive practices.
PURA’s new residential solar tariff provides customer protections explicitly through resources and disclosure forms, and through simplified program and tariff designs.
New this year, Eversource and UI will maintain a copy of each solar installers’ customer terms and conditions to ensure that PURA’s Office of EOE can provide sufficient consumer protections. The EDCs will collect the customer contract associated with the first project application received from each installer in 2022, and annually thereafter.
On the federal level, solar sales professionals are already required to follow rules prohibiting deceptive telemarketing acts or practices and other abusive telemarketing acts or practices (15 USC 6102).
The words “real estate” are mentioned in the title of the bill and Statement of Purpose but nowhere else. The real estate sales matter might be the element of bill worth salvaging.
Every homeowner in Connecticut who purchases or leases a solar system is provided clear information on expected power production, how a lease will transfer, and what the overall costs and benefits are. All this information is provided in written form at the time of sale. Most home solar leases sold in Connecticut were sold by companies still operating here today. Contract information, including information on how to transfer a lease is easily attained from these companies.
Still, some home solar installers that operated in Connecticut 10 years ago have either exited the state, changed their name, or been purchased by another company and renamed. Home solar lease arrangements may have been assigned to another company just as home mortgages are bought and sold all the time. Trying to untangle what entity is holding a solar lease signed 4, 5, 6 or 10 years ago that’s changed hands several times, and how to contact the company holding the lease today can in some cases be a challenge especially for a homeowner thick in the process of selling their home.
We suspect the issues homeowners might be having transitioning their lease agreement has more to do with the companies that originated solar leases that do not operate here any longer.
CONNSSA is willing to share our members’ experience with these real estate issues. And how policy could be drafted to streamline the process for all involved. It’s important that solar homeowners are kept abreast of transactions that impact their systems so that older contracts are more easily transferred to new owners.
We see little value to the balance of this bill.
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