First appearance on Fox: Republican leaders in the House and Senate are going after the Department of Energy (DOE) over recent $3 billion bounties to solar energy companies accused of defrauding vulnerable customers.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) will replace Jigar Shah, director of the Department of Energy's Office of Loan Programs. In a letter to him he stated: — raised concerns about compensation at Houston-based Sunnova Energy Corporation. They cited reports highlighting how Sunnova has deceived and misled consumers in the past.
“We have made numerous consumer complaints against Sunnova, including those alleging questionable sales practices such as forcing elderly homeowners in poor health to sign long-term contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars. “We are alarmed by recent credible reports that we are receiving complaints,” they wrote. To Shah.
“These reports include interviews with individuals who struggled to meet large contracts signed by their elderly parents shortly before their deaths, as well as interviews with state consumers who allege delayed maintenance and predatory sales tactics. Complaints are cited,” the letter continued.
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In late September, the Department of Energy's Office of Loan Programs ended a $3 billion partial loan guarantee for Sunnova's Project Hestia, which provides solar power and battery storage to low-income residents, as part of President Biden's broader green energy policy. It was announced that. The agreement represents the federal government's largest commitment to solar power to date.
The project will provide financing for clean energy systems to approximately 75,000 to 115,000 homeowners in the United States and Puerto Rico, according to the announcement.
But while the reports McMorris Rodgers and Barrasso cited in their letter focused on specific incidents, Republican leaders said in the letter that the reports were “not isolated incidents.” It is written.
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For example, earlier this year, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning to Sunnova, giving the company an “F” rating for “deceptive sales practices,” poor customer service, and a pattern of not arriving repair technicians on time. . Consumers also reported that their issues were only resolved by Sunnova after they filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
One complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau in October states: “To date, despite countless calls, we still have not received that portion of service nearly five months later. “No.” “Given that our panels are not working, we don’t get any credit from the power company; I called and worked with the company and tried over 100 times to get power supply back.'' They were fixed. ”
“Our Solar System (Sunova)” [sic.] It has not been working properly for over 4 months,” another October complaint states. “We contacted Sunova.” [sic.] Many times with almost no action. Our contract says Sunova. [sic.] Monitor your system and fix any issues in a timely manner. We have been fighting this company for months to fix the system with no success. We are paying him over $1,000 for electricity to the national grid because the system is not working.snobbery [sic.] It's a breach of contract. ”
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In 2019, Puerto Rico's Energy Department released a report accusing Sunnova of misleading consumers about costs, contract lengths and potential savings from the service, USA Today reported. . The report went so far as to say that the company's “practices during the contract process are not consistent with utilities' obligations.”
Sunnova, which owns the majority of Puerto Rico's housing market share, received 436 complaints in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, according to the report.
And the Washington Free Beacon reported last month that Sunnova is suspected of defrauding vulnerable consumers, including the elderly and the sick. The report points to multiple instances in which Sunnova's door-to-door salespeople persuaded such individuals to enter into 25-year leases for solar panels.
“They were really ripping off old people,” said Texas resident Terry Bryce. “It was the biggest rip-off I've ever seen.”
Bryce said her late father was forced to sign a 25-year lease for solar panels in 2020, when he was 86 and suffering from dementia.
“All customers, regardless of age, must complete a thorough verification process that verifies their identity and confirms that they have read and understand the terms and conditions,” a Sunnova spokesperson told the Washington Post. told the Free Beacon. I can't, [does] Don't refuse to sign a contract because of the customer's age. ”
The spokesperson added that Sunnova is “committed to helping all customers resolve any issues that may arise during the term of their contract or due to external factors.”
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Sunnova was founded in 2012 and finally went public seven years later in 2019. The company offers primarily residential customers to install rooftop solar panels in exchange for a low-cost lease.
But in recent years, the company has lost hundreds of millions of dollars and its stock price has plummeted. The stock has fallen more than 77% since January 2021, with losses of $147.5 million in 2021 and $130 million in 2022.
DOE and Sunnova did not respond to requests for comment.