California solar consumer protection guide is guidance that California’s utility regulator has unveiled to protect consumers from unscrupulous solar sellers. We explain what the California solar consumer protection guide says and how it will help solar consumers in California.
Effective from September 30, 2019, California solar installers are required to provide customers with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Solar Consumer Protection Guidelines; A 23-page document with important information about solar installations.
The California solar consumer protection Guide was initiated by Decision (D.) 18-09-044, a decision that requires the CPUC Energy Department to develop an information package for solar consumers. Based on this, the CPUC determined that the package should be available to residents of all social and economic backgrounds who want to learn more about consumer solar energy.
The ultimate goal of the California solar consumer protection guide is to help consumers make an informed decision when it comes to installing solar energy in their homes.
What is included in the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide?
Homeowners converting to solar are now required to sign the first four pages of the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide if they are Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas, and Electric, or San Diego Gas and Electric customers. Otherwise, your newly installed solar panel system cannot be connected to the national grid.
- Page 1 of CPUC’s Consumer Protection Guide
The first page of the California solar consumer protection guide informs residential solar users of the languages in which the manual is available: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. On the CPUC website, an audio version of the guide is also available.
- Page 2 of CPUC’s Consumer Protection Guide
The second page describes common false claims you may hear from solar panel installers. For example, it warns customers about solar panel installers who claim you won’t have electricity bills after getting solar power.
In fact, most electricity bills have standard fees and maintenance charges that cannot be offset by your solar system. If you find that your solar panel installer doesn’t fully explain something like this, they may not be trusted.
- Page 3 of CPUC’s Consumer Protection Guide
The third page describes your rights as a consumer of solar energy. These rights include
- Be entitled to a copy of the solar contract and financing agreement. Both documents must be provided to you in the language in which the seller spoke to you.
- Have the right to read the entire Solar Consumer Protection Guide before signing a contract.
- Be eligible for a solar energy disclosure that lists the total cost of the solar array system as well.
- Have the right to withdraw funds within 3 days after signing the contract. Different solar panel installers may have different cancellation policies but must give you a minimum of 3 days to cancel.
- Page 4 of CPUC’s Consumer Protection Guide
Page 4 of the California solar consumer protection guide lists some basic (but important!) questions everyone should ask a solar installer before signing a contract. By answering these questions, you can determine if a solar panel installer is right for you.
If you’re interested, we’ve put together a more detailed list: 8 questions to ask your installer before switching to solar
The fourth page is the last one you need to sign. The rest of the guide contains additional information to help you understand the solar transition process.
It has information on low-income solar programs, funding options, and how to find a qualified solar installer. It also includes a final checklist to make sure you are making an informed decision.
What is the purpose of the protection guide?
CPUC is committed to ensuring that guidance is directed towards solving common problems historically faced by solar consumers by providing information about solar installations directly to customers.
The CPUC has determined that one of the biggest challenges potential solar buyers face is the aggressive and often misleading sales strategies used by solar panel installers. These strategies include:
- Providing homeowners with incomplete information about the benefits and costs of solar energy; as well as
- Providing incorrect information about various incentives.
One sales tactic noted in the consumer advocacy manual was to get installers to sign a contract, sometimes on the same day that the installer met with the client. This sales tactic doesn’t give owners enough time to read and think about the contract.
To remedy this, the management suggests that owners spend 48 hours to a week reviewing all of the information, giving themselves time to familiarize themselves with the content.
Another concern of the CPUC was a possible language barrier for non-English speakers, especially those living in low-income areas. To address this all-too-urgent issue, the Consumer Protection Guide has been released in 6 languages, covering the vast majority of non-English speakers.
A good step
The California Solar Consumer Protection Guide has been developed with these concerns in mind to ensure that these types of barriers do not affect customers and potentially prevent them from receiving solar energy.
This customer guide provides a comprehensive explanation of the process that potential solar buyers should consider when considering installing solar power in their homes.
The guide includes approaches to help clients determine if solar is a viable option, how to get competitive offers, the pros and cons of owning versus renting, permit and inspection requirements, and how to contact the utility. It also includes information about special funding for low-income clients. The guide can be very helpful for utility customers to make more informed solar choices and can also be personalized with a utility logo upon request.
The California Solar Consumer Protection Guide has been developed in collaboration with the Southern California Public Energy Authority, the California Public Utilities Association, and the Northern California Energy Association to assist customers who are evaluating solar energy options.
Hopefully, management can shed some light on solar contracts and get solar installers to be more honest with their customers.
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