n a recent development that's stirring up the energy sector, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Republican members have called into question the sales practices in the solar industry. In a joint letter sent to the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office (LPO), the committee expressed concerns over an incident where an elderly man was allegedly pressured into a lengthy 25-year solar lease by a salesperson.
At the center of this controversy is Houston-based Sunnova, a leading Energy as a Service (EaaS) provider. Known for its innovative solutions in solar power and smart home technology, Sunnova's business model often revolves around leases, power purchase agreements (PPAs), or loans. The company, which collaborates with the U.S. Department of Energy on Project Hestia to provide solar loans to underserved communities, is now facing scrutiny for its sales strategies.
The letter, addressed to LPO’s head Jigar Shah, focuses on Sunnova's recently awarded $3 billion loan guarantee for Hestia. It details allegations of unethical sales practices, including the case of an elderly man pressured into an expensive solar system contract. The letter also highlights instances where people faced challenges handling complex contracts their elderly parents agreed to just before passing away.
In response, Sunnova reassured its investors of its commitment to ethical business practices and high-quality customer service. The company underscored its responsibility as the primary risk-bearer in the $3 billion loan, its robust service team, extensive warranties, and the operation of a Global Command Center to oversee its solar projects.
The US has seen similar incidents before. The state attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, and New Mexico have taken legal action against residential solar companies for their aggressive sales strategies. As these concerns mount, solar firms need to adjust their sales approaches to uphold a positive industry image.