Let me first make clear that I am no fan of over regulation. As a business owner and former business coach, I am a huge advocate of personal responsibility and self-diligence. Through my 24 professional years, I have been exposed to many industries that require regulation, including real estate, automotive, residential and commercial security, petroleum, and home improvement. In that time, I have seen a lot of responsible regulation, as well as asphyxiating regulations that needlessly drive up cost and bottleneck delivery. In almost all industries, there is a wide space between a business’ ability to perform its fundamental function freely, and maintain protections for consumers. However, since entering the Solar Industry, I can honestly say that I have never seen so little protections with such a large amount at risk, and I hate what it has done for our reputation as a solar company and to the solar ownership community as a whole.
None of this can be more evident than in the recent bankruptcy filing of Pink Energy, formerly known as Powerhome Solar. While their filing has had a strong emphasis on faulty equipment from their suppliers, the truth is that the most profound complaints from their former customers have less to do with the equipment, and far more to do with their deceptive sales techniques, poor workmanship, and questionable business practices. Testimonials read like a cornucopia of the worst things a business can do to their customers, and somehow this company grew to the 3rd largest privately owned solar company in the U.S., and received numerous awards, including being ranked No. 7 residential solar installer in the U.S. by Solar Power World in 2020, and being ranked No. 255 on the 2020 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America, which was the third time in four years that the company had been among the top 300. Unfortunately, Powerhome fell as quickly as it ascended, leaving behind more than 30k homeowners in its wake, and a massive stain on the industry as a whole. While I think we can all acknowledge that businesses do come and go, and that this is just part of the journey, I believe that due to the massive amount of exposure including $50k to $150k loans with 25 to 30 years terms and 30% tax credits, a collapse of this scale needs to have some right and left bumpers in the best interests of everyone.
Reduction of commonly misunderstood or manipulated tools like forecasting and offset models, loan projections that include the federal tax credit, and income and credit applications would go a long way towards protecting the home or business owner. In my experience, it’s about a 70/30 split between people who don’t really understand the tools they are given (70%) and those who understand the tools but intentionally choose to use them improperly (30%). This can most likely be addressed with a state regulated Solar Sales Certification that tests the knowledge needed to appropriately represent the value being delivered to the homeowner, incorporating some penalties for bad actors. In addition, some of the larger solar companies are leveraging the electrical licenses of their project managers, but are not requiring any licensed people to be on site for any of the work…not even journeymen electricians. This, coupled with an installation crew that may or may not even be certified by the manufacturer, or in solar in general, really compromises the quality of the workmanship. A basic certification for installers, even something at a minimum for a crew lead, could go a long way towards maintaining the integrity of this industry.
Unfortunately, Powerhome is not the only offender of the aforementioned points. I have been around multiple installers, even some that have been in business for over a decade, that have adopted the same practices and crippling habits. The closest thing to providing some type of balance that we have found, is the broker/agent model that we adopted.This allowed us to vet all of our installers, one by one, and work on behalf of the home or business owner rather than be beholden to the installation company.
Hopefully in time, some type of regulation will come to this industry, which will be a great gift to the entire solar community. Until then however, we are honored to be
YOUR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE & SAVINGS ADVOCATE