- Sunrun, the third largest U.S. solar installer and provider of third-party ownership (TPO) financing, added an office and warehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, siezing on market opportunity opened by the state's landmark Act 236 solar legislation.
- Passed unanimously in 2014 after a compromise between utilities and solar interests, Act 236 legalized TPO financing, key to the business of Sunrun and other large installers. It also imposed solar targets on the state’s regulated utilities and directed regulators to approve a Value of Solar methodology and to modernize rate structures to support distributed resources.
- Sunrun employs 130 South Carolinians and has added over 1,000 solar customers in the state since June 2015. With its new facilities, it will add to the 1,700 solar industry jobs in South Carolina reported this year in the Solar Foundation National Solar Jobs Census.
With TPO financing, customers lease solar arrays from the installer at little or no upfront cost. The company owns and maintains the array and the customer receives the difference between lease payments and energy saved as a credit on their utility bill.
Third party financing, expected to account for about half the residential solar market in the next few years, has proved controversial in some states because it allows non-utility entities to sell power directly to customers. Just last week, regulators in North Carolina fined an advocacy group $60,000 for setting up a TPO solar arrangement with a church in Greensboro.
In South Carolina, Act 236 legalized the TPO model and preserved retail rate net metering, but also set caps on solar's growth. After a regulatory compromise related to the law in March, net metered solar is now capped at 2% of a utility's peak capacity.
Although Sunrun shut down its operations in Nevada in January, after regulators sharply cut net metering rates for new and existing systems, the company's Q4 2015 financials showed an 83% year-over-year growth in deployment compared to Q4 2014.
Sunrun’s increased presence “will help create more choice for homeowners looking to reduce their power bills," said Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who attended the Sunrun opening. It is another step "towards America’s long-term energy independence."