- Solar leasing companies’ lease provisions and marketing practices were questioned in letters from Arizona Congress-people to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
- The letter to the FTC, it was later revealed, was based on one drafted by an employee of Arizona Public Service (APS). APS is the state’s dominant electric utility, a major campaign donor to Arizona legislators, and a long-time opponent of solar installers, according to renewables advocates.
- The Arizona Corporation Commission subsequently voted to open a docket on consumer complaints about solar companies. Initial hearings are expected in the spring, promising a new round in the high profile fight between utilities across the country and the national companies that provide rooftop solar with no upfront costs or ownership responsibilities through third-party ownership (TPO) financing.
A November 19, 2014, letter from Democratic Representatives Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick, and Kyrsten Sinema asked the CFPB to look into solar panel leasing practices.
A December 12, 2014, another letter signed by Republican Representatives Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, and Matt Salmon, but allegedly drafted by APS Energy Innovation Program Consultant David Peterson, asked the FTC to look into those practices as well.
The business volume of TPO finance companies like Vivint, Sunrun, and SolarCity has grown tenfold since 2009, threatening the viability of vertically integrated utilities like APS.
“Nationally, installers report that about half of residential systems are financed or leased through the company (as opposed to purchased outright), while about 70% of commercial systems are financed/leased as opposed to purchased,” according to the just-released National Solar Jobs Census 2014 from The Solar Foundation. In six states representing approximately 75% of the total capacity expected in the national residential market in 2014, third-party ownership accounts for approximately 70-90% of all new residential installations.”