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Barrasso, E&C Chair Rodgers Demand Answers from DOE Regarding Loan to Company with History of Predatory Sales Practices

Letter follows reports of Sunnova pressuring elderly homeowners to sign long-term contracts 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) today sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Programs Office (LPO) Director Jigar Shah regarding a $3 billion partial loan guarantee to Sunnova Energy Corporation. 

KEY LETTER EXCERPTS

We are alarmed about recent, credible reports that Sunnova has racked up numerous consumer complaints, including those alleging troubling sales practices, such as Sunnova pressing elderly homeowners in poor health to sign long-term contracts costing tens of thousands of dollars. These reports cite interviews with individuals who struggled to deal with large contracts that their elderly parents signed shortly before passing away as well as state consumer complaints alleging maintenance delays and predatory sales strategies. For example, one woman interviewed stated that a door-to-door Sunnova salesman sold her father—who she characterized as in hospice care—a $60,000 solar system for his mobile home shortly before his death.” 

“Additional reports suggest these troubling reports are not isolated incidents. For example, while Project Hestia will target Puerto Rican homeowners for 20 percent of its loans, its residents have previously experienced major problems with Sunnova’s services there. By 2017, Puerto Rico’s Independent Office of Consumer Protection reportedly received over 1,000 complaints regarding Sunnova systems that include claims of misleading consumers and failing to deliver lower energy bills as promised. In 2019, the Puerto Rican Energy Bureau also released a report confirming the validity of numerous consumer complaints it received. These included complaints of consumers accidentally signing up for 25-year contracts, consumers being misled about potential savings with solar panels, and Sunnova not fully revealing the costs of financing these solar panels to consumers. Residents in other parts of the country have also reported problems with Sunnova systems, including deceptive sales practices. These allegations are particularly troubling, as LPO has stated this program will focus on disadvantaged communities.” 

BACKGROUND

  • LPO closed a partial loan guarantee to Sunnova’s “Project Hestia” on September 28, 2023.
  • It was billed as “the single largest commitment ever made by the Federal Government to solar power.” 
  • According to LPO, the project will make distributed energy resources and virtual power plant software available to more Americans by providing loans to approximately 75,000 to 115,000 homeowners for clean energy systems.  
  • The project will focus on households in disadvantaged communities, aiming to provide at least 20 percent of loans to customers with FICO credit scores of 680 or less and up to 20 percent of loans to homeowners in Puerto Rico. 

The Members requested documents responding to these questions by December 21, 2023. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

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