When special interest groups try to help
(2 of 2)
Soon after the word got out in 2008 about our “best in the nation” solar tax credit, people began opening solar companies in the state. After a few companies popped up, an individual without a solar company, solar training, or even solar on their house, wanted to start his own solar group. Even knowing there was already a group, the Louisiana Solar Energy Society (since 1999) link to LSES here, he still wanted his own, with his new-found excitement about solar. (From part 1 of this series) This first special interest group was the basis for approaching Gautreaux and getting him to amend the net metering commercial limits to 300kw without basis.
What this did was open it up for additional amendments by the Senate committee on commerce. they added amendment #4 which gave the Public Service Commission even more authority to make rules affecting net metering. Today, this is being used to prevent residents from net metering in areas of our state where solar installations total “0.5%” of the utilities generation capacity. Thanks a lot, but it gets worse.
This individual (and his special interest group) fortunately fade away in a couple of years, but not until after he had funneled all the money he could out of it to his for-profit training company. He was mostly funded by the money he brought in from $1000 solar training classes. (Wait – those classes were funneled to his “for-profit” training company consisting of him and a trainer brought in from Texas.)
His disappearance opened up a hole for another “trade” group to form. The next group started out similarly (around 2010), just an individual wanting some notoriety, but this time the founder was a brand new solar installer. Not being selective of his group members, he became extremely well funded by solar leasing money. The money got what it wanted and commandeered the “trade” group for it’s own purposes. Money funneled through the non-profit by the hundreds of thousands. Almost the entirety of the money was for lawyers and lobbyist to make their leasing model work. Fast forward to 2013 and look what they did: read here As of 2014 one leaser has shut down and the other one is holding on by a thread.
Now we’re in 2015 and this second “trade”/special interest group is about to try to help again. Under the pretense of “saving” our solar tax credit and stopping fraud, they want to change our 50% tax credit to a $/watt credit.
A current frauding company is combining energy efficiency improvements with a small amount of solar and telling the customer they will get the tax credit on the whole purchase. It will show up on the tax credit as a high cost $/watt. Paying out tax credit by watts installed would address this. On the surface it sounds innocent enough, unless you know the possible real motive the group has and the actual way to end the fraud.
The apparent motive is to get the tax credit opened back up to leasing (since it is set to end this spring) by making the $/watt credit apply to sales and leasing. Just watch. It will most probably limit customers striving for energy independence because it could possibly not apply to energy storage (batteries). If anything, they might offer up a $/watt-hour for storage but it is all-to-easily scratched off in committee under the pretense of savings. By even opening it up with amendments would do more harm than good because it puts the credit up on the table for deeper review and cuts like what happened to us in 2013.
*As prices change in solar’s “$/watt” do we then open the credit every time it changes? That is just another reason to leave it alone.
The correct way to stop the frauding company is to:
1. Collect the data, names, addresses, etc. on the frauded customers
2. Turn this over along with the overview of the scam to the Attorney General to investigate and shut down the company.
3. Additionally turn this over to the Louisiana Department of Revenue so that all returns may be collected and reviewed.
Oh wait! Yes, this has been done already by the Solar Pros from the Louisiana Solar Energy Society. Wisdom operates differently than criminal motivation.
UPDATE: The 2015 session is over and solar got hammered. The one leasing company in LA got $25M PLUS $19M for the systems they leased the first 1/2 of 2015. All of the homeowners in LA that want to buy a system get an equal amount, $25M, but NOT the $19M to cover the systems they bought the first 1/2 of the year. Some well intentioned people tried to help, and ended up costing solar homeowners millions.