Consumer Protection: A Key Principle for Successful Low-income Solar Policy
Affordable solar power has made safe, clean, homegrown power a real option for more and more U.S. families – and we’re working hard to keep those numbers growing strong, especially among low- and middle-income consumers who have the most to gain from a transition to solar power.
We have a tremendous opportunity before us to put solar energy to work delivering long-term financial relief, good jobs, and cleaner air to breathe in neighborhoods that have been disproportionately impacted by polluting power generation. Now, with solar adoption on the rise in communities nationwide, it’s important to take special care to ensure that customers fully understand their options and that solar is delivering economic benefits to financially vulnerable consumers – not adding additional risk. That’s why consumer protection is one of the five guiding principles of strong solar policy design in our Low-Income Solar Policy Guide, which we developed in partnership with GRID Alternatives and the Center for Social Inclusion.
Fortunately, the solar industry itself not only understands that consumers are at the heart of solar, it is also leading the way to promote the principles to protect them. In 2015, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) launched a suite of tools to promote consumer protection throughout the solar industry, including its Solar Business Code, model contracts and disclosure forms (PDF), and consumer guides (PDF). SEIA worked with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as with states and consumer advocates, to craft its materials. As a result, the Better Business Bureau has praised SEIA’s efforts to provide transparency and accountability in the solar marketplace.
Moreover, SEIA is committed to ensuring its Solar Business Code has “teeth.” The association developed a simple complaint resolution process to help consumers resolve their issues. If a company is found to have violated the Solar Business Code, sanctions can range from a reprimand to expulsion from SEIA and referral of the matter to the appropriate government entities.
Good consumer protection policies will expand access to solar by ensuring consumers are educated about their options and choices, and by ensuring that solar providers abide by good business practices. As state policy makers seek to craft robust low-income solar programs, they won’t have to look very far to find a well-designed suite of consumer protection materials.
Now, with traditional power interests working to undermine solar progress on all fronts, the solar industry’s commitment to consumer protection is more important than ever. Solar is ready to be a transformative force for good – bringing health, jobs, and real power to our communities.
Learn more about how solar programs can be designed to serve low-income customers in our Low-Income Solar Policy Guide.