Mar. 8, 2023
Carson City, NV – As National Consumer Protection Week continues, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford advises Nevadans to be on the alert for solar scams involving residential rooftop solar. While a solar scam can involve a fraudulent solar business, it more commonly involves a legitimate solar business that may provide misleading information and/or conduct itself in a fraudulent manner. Solar scams can be perpetuated in person via telephone; through door-to-door salesmen; or online. Nevada consumers considering purchasing residential rooftop solar should be vigilant about educating themselves to avoid scams before making their purchase.
“Misleading information about solar, derived online or via solar sales representatives, is becoming more commonplace,” said AG Ford. “My office is combatting this misinformation and will hold those who are profiting off misleading information regarding the sales of residential rooftop solar accountable.”
It is critical that Nevada consumers are aware of their rights and how residential rooftop solar works in Nevada. Currently, Nevada residential consumers can lease a solar system, purchase a solar system or enter into what is known as a power-purchase agreement. When you lease a solar system from the installation company, the consumer does not own it at the end of the lease term. However, the consumer will own the solar system if he/she chooses to purchase the system instead.
Purchasing or leasing a solar system can range in cost from tens of thousands to almost a hundred thousand dollars, depending on the number of the panels that are needed. In a power-purchase agreement, the homeowner initially purchases the power that the solar system generates for a lower price per kilowatt hour (“kWh”) than what they would be paying if they were to purchase it from the utility. However, the homeowner could end up paying more per kWh based on escalation clauses or if the cost of power to the utility went down.
With both leasing and a power-purchase agreement, the installation company owns your solar system and therefore may be the recipient of any benefits of ownership, such as tax incentives, rebates and renewable energy credits. However, if the consumer owns the system, they may be eligible for such benefits.
If a solar customer either leases or purchases the solar panels, they are eligible for net metering. Net metering allows customers to use the energy produced by their leased or purchased solar panels to offset their power bill. When a customer produces more solar energy than what they consume, the excess goes out onto the grid for others to use, and the consumer receives credits for the excess energy produced. These credits are reflected on their utility bill on the next billing cycles. Customers will still receive an energy bill even if they purchase solar.
Based on the length of commitment and the high cost, being aware of what you are signing up for when you enter into a solar agreement is extremely important. The Office of the Nevada Attorney General has compiled some educational tips about what to look out for should you decide to explore buying and/or leasing solar:
- Often, solar sales representatives sell solar by going in person door-to-door. Consider asking for I.D. from the solar sales representative at your door. Know you do not need to let anyone in your home if you do not feel comfortable and/or they refuse to show you an I.D.
- Solar sales representatives are not affiliated with government entities or local utilities. A solar sales representative may try to tell you that the solar system is part of a government program inferring they are a government representative. If a sales representative tells you this, they may be misleading you.
- You may request documents in another language. You may request any solar sales agreement to be provided in any language the solar salesperson is speaking to you in when making the door-to-door sale.
- Know your contract rights. Once the solar agreement is executed, you have a statutory three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty or obligation.
- You have a right to receive a copy of the contract you signed. Often, the solar sales representatives will have you review the contract on an iPad or computer, and you have a right to that digital contract.
- Do not feel pressured to purchase solar that day, regardless of what the solar sales representative may say. Take the time to understand the contract and seek the advice of legal counsel if you are concerned about the language in the contract or need assistance in understanding the terms of the contract.
- Be sure to get promises in writing. Consider the statements or oral promises or assurances made by the solar sales representative and ensure those representations are included in the contract before signing.
- You will still receive an energy bill. Customers will still receive a utility bill even if they purchase solar, and statements by solar sales representative that you will not receive a bill are misleading and inaccurate. In addition to the utility bill, you will also receive a bill from the solar company, any statements by a solar sales representative that you will not are misleading and inaccurate.
- You have a right to confirm the estimated tax rebates, renewable energy credits or other savings estimates with a qualified professional. Numbers that are shared at the time of the sales could be inflated and it is important to check these numbers with a third party before signing.
- Consider audio or video recording the sales representative who is making an in-person (not over the phone) sales presentation door-to-door. By audio or video recording the assurances that the sales representative is telling you, you are keeping a record that could be used to protect you later.
- Protect yourself. You may file a complaint concerning a solar sales transaction with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada and Nevada State Contractors Board, in addition to the Office of the Nevada Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General encourages all Nevadans considering purchasing solar to educate themselves about solar and avoid scams. You can learn more about solar scams at the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s website.
If you have been a victim of a solar scam, you may file a complaint with the Office of the Nevada Attorney General. Please file as much information as possible with your complaint, including any information you have about the person or entity that contacted you.