The California Solar Consumer Protection Guide is (Finally) About to go into Effect
by Sarah Wood on Nov 12, 2020
CPUC consumer guide
solar consumer protection
*Important notice: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released its 2021 version of theConsumer Protection Guide and contractors will be required to use this version of the guide for any signed contracts starting January 1, 2021.
As most residential solar installers in California are likely already aware, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has introduced this new guide that provides important information to homeowners who are thinking of going solar. Solar installers will be required to provide the new Solar Consumer Protection Guide to all residential customers and must get the first four pages signed. The guide was originally intended to go into effect in June of 2020, which was extended to September, and recently extended again until December 31, 2020. On the first day of the new year, homeowners' signatures on the guide will be mandatory.
The24-page Guide is broken up into many sections, which include information on common false claims, solar rights that homeowners should be aware of, and good questions homeowners should ask their potential installer. Homeowners are required to review and sign, acknowledging that they’re able to make an informed decision when installing solar in the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) utility territories. The guide is broken up into the following nine steps which are designed to help homeowners understand the process of going solar:
- Is Solar a Good Fit for Me?
- Understand Roles and Solar Process
- Find a Qualified Solar Provider
- Compare Your Financing Options
- Learn About Electricity Bill Savings
- Carefully Read All Paperwork
- Review Additional Resources
- “Before You Sign” Checklist
- Sign This Guide
How will this affect residential developers?
The primary purpose of the guide is to provide homeowners with objective information about the process of going solar, coming directly from the CPUC. The ‘Watch Out for False Claims’ section lists out a few misleading claims that devious solar salespeople have used in the past to try and get a quick sale: “you can get free solar at no cost to you” and, “you will never pay an electric bill again after your system is installed.” Both of these claims are untruthful and deceptive. Since Energy Toolbase’s inception, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on transparently calculating and displaying a customer’s utility bill savings and project economics. We are happy to see the CPUC debunk these false claims and dedicate a section in the guide to summarizing the mechanics of how utility bill savings work and are calculated. These are issues we’ve been at the forefront of for 6+ years now.
What’s ETB’s take on the Guide?
We support the guide and think that it does a good job of discrediting false claims, clearly spelling out a customer’s rights, and providing information on important topics like financing and how utility bill savings work for homeowners considering solar. In fact, our company had representatives participate in a workshop at the CPUC last year when the various sections and content of the guide were being developed.
To some, the Guide may feel like a nuisance to some developers because it adds another document that needs to get signed during the contract process, which can have the effect of lengthening the sale process. We think that reputable and trustworthy installers, many of which are longtime ETB Developer users, will agree with us and be generally supportive of the guide and its purpose. As solar and storage enter the mainstream, consumer protections are needed so our industry does not get a bad rap as the result of a few unscrupulous solar salespeople. The guide should have the effect of weeding out the few bad apples and having a business funnel to the reputable installers operating in the market. The launch of this new guide should have an overall positive impact on the future of the solar industry.