The Listen Books by Joe Gwerder

Inspire Feeling, Promote Thought, Encourage Responsibility

Solar Leasing Heading For Trouble

For the past 10-15 years, the collective experiences of this country’s people has been nothing short of constant change – severe change! A synthetic “boom” was created. People had plenty of work, lots of money, big houses, cars, boats etc.. Then the rug was pulled out from under them. That “adjustable rate mortgage” they signed up for was way over their head, the high level scandals on Wall Street finally surfaced and, seemingly overnight, it crashed! Before these people knew what hit them, their house was gone, boat repossessed, credit scores destroyed and their future seemed out of their control. The “six o-clock news” would not call it a “depression”. It was as though the absence of soup lines that were common in the 1930’s dictated that we were not in a depression. Well, unlike the 1930’s, the banks did not actually close their doors, but who were they lending to? Almost nobody. The flow of money was extremely stagnant for several years. Jobs were lost, businesses closed down, work shut down in many sectors etc.. If this was not a “depression” financially speaking, what is? Then, the Federal government began to “make” money at a crazy pace. The printing presses that were punching out cash must have been overheating! By 2010, the general population was trying to “trust” again. Searching for ways to regain some form of control in their own lives, many people were struggling severely to pay their bills. For those who were not affected by a bad mortgage and remained in their house and were also able to maintain or rebuild their credit scores, the idea of reducing or eliminating their electric utility bill became very appealing. If you walked into a bank in 2010 or 2011 or even 2012 for that matter and inquired about a loan to purchase solar, you were in for a real adventure. Regardless of your credit score or job history, banks were extremely conservative with their lending practices in general and “solar loan’s” did not exist (yet). The opportunistic investors who lay in the weeds and wait for these situations were ready to capitalize. The solar lease was conceived in 2007,2008 and 2009 but began rapidly escalating in 2010.

They presented their product as “an answer”. Many would claim it was the “only way” for most people to obtain solar. So these same people, who were searching for some form of control to return to their lives, began “signing up” as a means to “control” their utility bill. Consider the irony in this. In an attempt to control their utility costs, they signed a long-term contract that restricts their control. All because they want to believe it is a good idea. In my opinion, the current traditional solar leases are following the same path as the “adjustable rate mortgages” took a few short years ago. This is an indirect path. With the “arm” the individual was facing a significant cost increase in their monthly payments down the road. With the solar lease, I believe the individual is facing an expected inverter issue, which will in turn create the return of a utility cost that has been absent. This is all riding on the promises from the financiers to maintain power production for the term of the lease.

It truly disappoints me that there are those among us who intentionally capitalize on others misfortunes with illusions created by misrepresentations. Contracts and warranties are irrelevant when the company does not exist any longer. In the 1970’s and 80’s solar hot water became a big thing. The political mess that was turned into the “oil crisis” of the mid-70’s created the opportunity. Costs of fuel used to heat homes and operate water heaters rose rapidly. Again, people were searching for personal control. Many people had a very hard time buying gas for their car and maintaining a warm house with hot water for their baths and showers. So, a window of opportunity presented itself. This time the problems did not directly come via the misconduct of people nearly as much as the inferior designs of their equipment. A solar hot water system cost significantly less than does a solar photovoltaic system, relatively speaking. The need to finance a solar hot water system was in much less demand and we were not just coming from a financial period of complete breakdown, as we have recently. With the debacle of the hot water systems, one had to look no further than the equipment itself. It leaked. It would freeze and break in certain climates. There became such a sense of urgency to get this product on the market, that many things were either over-looked or swept under the rug. It wasn’t long before the public turned it’s back on that industry. People wanted to believe it would work and all would be good, but history has shown otherwise. The solar hot water industry has basically been stagnant for 30+ years.

Now, within the electrical portions of solar (photovoltaics) we have equipment that actually works, and works very well for many years, but it is the questionable integrity of those few who control the vast majority of the acquisitions that are going to be a major threat to the future of the public’s attitude toward the equipment. I still find it amazing that so many otherwise seemingly intelligent people succumb to the portrayal of those very long contracts. The emotion of desire is completely dominating their logic.

 

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