Green State Power in Charlotte Business Journal for Solar Code of Conduct
Green State Power’s Carrie Stewart was quoted in an article from the Charlotte Business Journal. The article is in reference to the new Business Code of Conduct for residential and commercial solar installers involved with the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. We are proud to be a member of this industry advocate and want to do our part to help grow both commercial and residential solar projects across our home state of North Carolina as well as utility scale projects across the country.
By John Downey Senior Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal
October 25, 2018
With demand booming for residential and commercial solar projects, the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association has developed a code of professional conduct for its members involved in that market.
Between the organic growth in the business and the pop provided earlier this year by Duke Energy Corp.’s rebates for such solar projects, the association and its members wanted to establish baseline professional codes for the industry, says Mike Davis.
“A code of professional conduct is a good thing for any industry,” says Davis, director of membership for the Raleigh-based association. “But we have seen an influx of new players in the market (after Duke offered the rebates) and that gave us a sense of urgency.”
Bob Kingery has been in the solar business for 17 years as president of Southern Energy Management. He says that North Carolina had not been a “Tier One” state for residential and commercial solar in the past, despite ranking second in the United States for solar on the grid.
That ranking was due to the large amount of utility-scale solar in the state. But residential and commercial installations had long lagged.
Duke’s introduction of solar rebates this spring — mandated by last year’s Competitive Energy Solutions for NC Act — has changed that, he says, and he thinks North Carolina is now a top-tier market for residential and commercial solar.
But that has attracted the attention of a lot of installers who had ignored the state before — including some that have a history of high-pressure sales, over-promising on rebates and incentives, overselling potential savings and, in some cases, doing shoddy workmanship.
“Companies like that will come into the market for a couple of years and then pull out,” he says. “The industry is reaching the point in the state where everyone can see we need to get ahead of some of these problems.”
Davis says NCSEA has no enforcement authority. But all 27 of its current 313 members who deal in the residential and commercial space have signed the code of conduct and agreed to abide by it. NCSEA will not accept or keep members who do not adhere to the professional conduct it outlines.
“We want to be able to assure the public that our members are upholding the highest standards in the industry,” he says.
The code holds that “no advertising claim by any member should be deceptive or misleading, including claims about products, services, pricing, quality, and performance.” It cautions members should not call renewable energy or energy efficiency “free” unless the customer “will not pay anything for the product, system, or the energy it generates.”
They are cautioned not to exaggerate expectations of future price increases by utilities to make their systems seem more attractive, and sets ground rules for making such estimations. It calls on its members to use clear and simple contract language and says they “shall seek openness and transparency and shall not attempt to take advantage of a consumer’s lack of knowledge.”
Hannah Weigard, director of communications at Renu Energy Solutions in Charlotte, which now employs 30 people at its Charlotte and Jamestown offices, says there have not been many such problems yet in North Carolina.
“I think the ecosystem here is filled with high-quality firms,” she says. Still, she says, it is a growing industry and that the code, “I would say, is overdue or at least well-timed.”
Carrie Stewart, vice president of Greensboro’s Green State Power, says the industry here is interested in protecting its customers and its own reputation.
“We have had people call us who had systems installed that were not done the right way or things were over-promised — it’s unfortunate,” she says.
When one person or company has a bad experience with a solar installer, it hurts the whole industry, she says. Her company focuses mainly on commercial solar installations, which have not seen as many new players as the residential side. But she says Green State was completely behind the proposed code.
Davis says that was true for all of its members operating in the small solar installation space. NCSEA began formal work on the code in April, right after the N.C. Utilities Commission approved Duke’s rebates.
The association reviewed codes of conducts from other states, including in particular South Carolina and California, to develop some initial proposals. It then circulated drafts and held meeting with its 27 solar installation and financing members to refine them into the code eventually adopted by NCSEA and signed by the 27 companies.