Just like the locust plagues in biblical times we now are now experiencing a solar leasing plague of biblical proportions in Louisiana. As I write this the first of several local solar leasing companies are going down. It’s the tip of the iceberg. Speaking of the tip of the iceberg, read this news article from WDSU: http://www.wdsu.com/news/investigations/iteam-suit-claims-solar-power-company-deceived-thousands-of-clients/24393946#mid=18312466
This first company was quickly duplicated by another “businessman” and the plague spread further. Both were discovered to be also operating without a license from the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors (LSLBC). The complaints began coming in. View some or all of these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4WfF_s4Iv4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNUNejOrGJA
The utility companies were swamped with net metering requests by the thousands from these two companies. The overnight surge caused Entergy and others to panic and they immediately began a fight to stop net metering completely. The Public Service Commission began to hear their cries and respond. Now net-metering has been put in jeopardy for all, where it wasn’t before leasing. Then Entergy and other utilities began receiving calls from homeowners complaining that their solar wasn’t reducing their bill like it was supposed to, and that it had to be the utility’s fault. It was really the fault of the leasers overstating the output. The utilities haven’t been smart enough (so far) to figure out how to stop net-metering for leasers and allow homeowner systems like before.
Then it gets scary. These two leasing companies (and potentially others considering the scam) needed a voice to push their agenda (with some legitimacy). With heavy funding (over $300k/year) the leasers formed/took over a group in their home town and pulled a few non-leasers in (to make it look even more legitimate). It was obvious (not by their words but by their actions) that the group was there to further the leasing agenda. By saying they represented the Gulf States as a renewable energy (not just solar) industry group or association, it “looked” rather official and fooled quite a few. With an inside track to the Department of Revenue they manipulated the tax credit rules to benefit leasing and hurt solar ownership as a byproduct. With rows of lobbyist and attorneys they stormed the capital to make the law even more favorable to leasing. Read this article about the legislature: solar panel scam More news stories about it here… http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/8349370-171/suit-filed-against-solar-company
Even in 2012 the leasers had a warning, but they kept going. Read this story from two years ago: http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2012/04/complaints_surface_about_how_s.html
It spreads north: A questionable installer who moved to north Louisiana partnered with a known out-of-state scam solar group and the leasing took off there as well. For fun, Google “citizenre scam” and see if you get more than 7000 results. Or try “citizenre rip-off” and see if you get less than 200,000 hits. This is who that installer partnered with. What does that say? The point is, like a locust plague, the entire state will be picked clean, our money and jobs gone forever, and an industry with an uphill battle to ever recover from the plague.
Update: the Attorney General is now investigating them 2/14/14: http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/8370746-171/state-attorney-general-investigating-claims
Update: another smaller Nola leasing company to watch out for according to the Ripoff-Report:
Could government officials be involved? On May 28, 2013, a group of concerned solar installers (not a part of the leasers) met with officials from the LSLBC and presented evidence of all instances where the leasers were operating without licenses. No action was taken, but eight months later a memo only confirming what the leasers were doing was illegal was issued in January, 2014. There are fines that should have been collected per Louisiana law.
As of 2/2014 no action has been taken by LDR.
UPDATE: LSLBC takes action! http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/I-Team-Solar-company-called-to-appear-before-licensing-board/24569644
Unusually suspicious… the other big leaser was shown on 5/28/13 to be operating unlicensed, but afterwards showed up on the LSLBC website as being licensed as of 5/8/13, 20 days earlier! Talk about miracles. It is noted that this could be due to a “late website update”. Even so, what sort of punishment is due for the thousands of contracts performed before 5/8/13? None as of today.
On May 22, 2013 another group of concerned solar installers met with a representative from the Department of Revenue (LDR) to provide information to them that the tax credits were being paid out to unlicensed leasers and they had been reported to the LSLBC. The request was that tax credits be suspended to the unlicensed contractors, and the money they received be paid back to the state. As of 2/2014 no action has been taken by LDR. We are waiting for LDR to demand the taxpayers money be returned!
On May 21, 2013 another group of concerned solar installers met with State Representative Ponti to warn him that his bill, HB-705 was going to cut anything outside of the leasing model, which was provided to him by the leasers, via their front group. He would not take the warning and pushed forward for some reason. See what happened here: http://www.gulfsouthsolar.com/knowledge-base/2013-solar-tax-credit-changes/
What made it challenging is that the leasers got to Senator Martiny as well and had him introduce something even more favorable to leasing: http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/BillInfo.aspx?i=222737
UPDATE – they got them again – no license! http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/la-licensing-board-for-contractors-takes-action-against-sader-power-owner-admits-he-has-no-license/25072520
Do we in Louisiana have a plague of Leasing Locusts? You decide and let me know.
Jeff Shaw – NABCAP Certified Installer