Another Taxpayer-Funded Solar Energy Boondoggle

One of the recurring themes in the Leftist playbook is using government regulations and handouts to pick and choose winners in business.  The latest solar energy boondoggle is SolarCity.  Watchdog.org highlights one customer’s horror story in dealing with SolarCity:

[I]n 2012, Jeff Leeds, who lives in the Northern California town of Half Moon Bay, listened. His 3,100-square-foot home features 91 incandescent bucket lights, a 180-gallon fish tank, three large refrigerator-freezers and a huge entertainment system. His electric bill was averaging $350 per month.

The sales pitch Leeds was hearing on the phone sounded ideal: Lease a system from SolarCity, the nation’s second-largest solar electrical contractor, for a low monthly fee and reap the rewards of cheap electricity.

“For a $600 fee up front, I would pay $182 a month for the next 20 years,” Leeds said. “They have a performance guarantee. If I don’t make enough electricity, they said, ‘No problem, don’t worry, we will write you a check.’ I thought, ‘I’m covered.'”

Tacked on to that would be what the company called a small bill from the local utility company allowing the customer to use the grid and to cover the use of any electricity Leeds drew from the utility rather than from his SolarCity solar panels.

Now, 15 months later, the local utility company has raised its rates and instead of a lower bill, Leeds is pushing $500 a month with no way out for the next two decades. And he has the eyesore of solar panels that cover most of his roof.

“As a customer, you have no say,” Leeds said. “With a solar lease, you are putting the stuff on your roof. You have a signed contract with the devil and you are stuck with the stuff.”

Leeds experience is not unique.  Watchdog.com reached out to a building inspector who confirmed that SolarCity frequently has “shoddy installation.”

So, why is SolarCity still in business?  Because they got a golden ticket from the federal government.

SolarCity has accepted more than $11 million in federal stimulus funds to make its business run. But the real public support appears elsewhere. Because SolarCity technically owns the energy systems it installs, SolarCity — not the homeowner — earns the federal tax break intended as an incentive to go solar. So far the company has earned $411 million in such tax breaks. The company also may earn additional income on state subsidies.

If that lease is a financial boon to SolarCity, it may prove problematic for SolarCity consumers. No matter how rapidly solar technology evolves, the SolarCity lease ties each homeowner to technology that is cutting edge only at the signing of the 20-year contract.


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