Rep. McNamara introduces Solar Energy and Disclosure Homeowners Bill of Rights to protect consumers
STATE HOUSE — With recent rapid growth in the solar electricity production industry, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would protect consumers by making sure that solar industry professionals are governed by fair business practices.
The act (2019-H 5133) would require solar energy system retailers to provide disclosures in the retail sale or lease documents as well as the right to cancel or rescind the agreement within 90 days prior to installation, and notice of any liens filed against their residential property.
“Solar electricity is on the rise as installations go up and prices come down,” said Representative McNamara, chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “These changes have made it imperative that we look hard at how we craft solar policy. We want to make sure that consumers fully understand all the implications so they can make fully informed decisions before entering into contracts for solar energy.”
Under the legislation, solar retailers would have to provide potential customers with a separate, written disclosure statement before entering a solar agreement. The disclosure would include language indicating that an estimate is based on previous data that utility rates can go up or down and that past information is not necessarily indicative of future results.
“Some of these contracts are long-term and can mean a substantial financial investment,” said Representative McNamara. “Homeowners who enter into contracts with the express expectation of immediate monthly bill savings may find that those savings estimates are based on potentially biased information by overzealous salespeople about electricity rates of the future along with contractual escalation rates.”
The act would also authorize the Department of Business Regulation to investigate complaints, issue cease and desist orders and impose an administrative fine of no more than $2,500 per solar energy system.
Solar energy experienced explosive growth between 2010 and 2016. Annual installations grew from just 849 megawatts in 2010 to more than 15,000 megawatts in 2016, a record-breaking year when the U.S. solar market nearly doubled its annual record for installations. By the middle of 2018, 58.3 gigawatts of solar capacity had been installed in the U.S., producing enough energy to power 11 million homes. The Solar Energy Industries Association predicts this amount will double in the next five years as growth continues.
The bill, which is cosponsored by Representatives Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville), John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) and James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry Warwick), has been referred to the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903