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Rooftop solar customers get hoodwinked in more ways than one

on March 5, 2015

A crackdown by Arizona authorities on rooftop-solar flim-flam in that state is, at the least, a potent reminder to consumers nationwide to beware the come-ons and rosy promises offered by some of the vendors in that industry. Yet, the kind of blatant fraud that was uncovered by the state's attorney general only hints at a subtler yet much bigger problem with the way rooftop solar systems are being pitched to the American public in general. 

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Who picks up the tab for subsidized solar?

on March 3, 2015

The lawsuit filed this week by billionaire Elon Musk's SolarCity against an Arizona public utility—alleging anti-competitive practices for assessing a new fee on solar customers—was as inevitable as it was staged. Which is to say, it's all about messaging. Ventures such as SolarCity, the nation's biggest installer of rooftop solar panels, have made a crusade of claiming large public utilities are trying to crush small-scale solar. It's a fetching if largely ginned-up image. 

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Using Gloom and Doom to Sell Solar

SolarSecrets.org on February 19, 2015

Most of us go on High Alert when some fast-talking salesman begins barraging us with brash promises or slippery statistics, in the rush to get us to sign on the dotted line. But our guards may be down when the person making the pitch is selling (or leasing) something as seemingly benign, and purportedly good for the planet, as a rooftop solar system.

It’s that suspension of skepticism that the companies aggressively pushing these often-dubious “deals” seem to be counting on.

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Billions Blown on Solar Offer Little Bang for the Bucks

Solar Secrets on February 12, 2015

In a new report, Filling the Solar Sinkhole: Billions of Bucks Have Delivered Too Little Bang, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance concludes that solar subsidies, tax breaks and other preferences have cost taxpayers more than $39 billion annually - exposing Americans to substantial financial risk while distorting our nation’s energy markets.

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But Are Those Solar Jobs Sustainable Jobs?

Solar Secrets on January 23, 2015

Americans have had so little good economic news lately that almost any they get is greeted with a ticker tape parade. So it’s only natural that a recent report showing surprisingly strong job growth in the solar power sector garnered saturation media coverage and a lot of pom-pom waving from industry cheerleaders. But as with so much else involving solar energy, these seemingly-impressive gains ought to be viewed in context, lest average Americans develop even more unrealistic expectations about this faddish but still problem-fraught energy technology. The solar jobs picture presents a good-news, bad-news sort of situation. » Read More

Goldwater Challenged by Conservatives on Solar Energy

SolarSecrets.org on December 17, 2014

The government waste-watchdogs at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) today released an open letter to Barry Goldwater Jr. formally challenging him to publicly debate a wide range of solar-related topics (click here for the full text of the letter). In addition, the group announced the launch of a new website and project, SolarSecrets.org.

Click here to read the full letter formally challenging Barry Goldwater Jr. to debate a wide range of solar-related topics.

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Did We Learn Anything From the Solyndra Debacle?

David Williams and Megan Bowser on September 23, 2015

Solyndra
(This op-ed was originally published on InsideSources.com)
As if Solyndra’s monumental failure was not enough of a blow to taxpayers, a new report from the Department of Energy inspector general four years in the making finds the infamous solar company deliberately deceived Energy to secure millions of dollars from the federal government (read: taxpayers).  What’s more, it appears the Obama administration was at the helm of the scandal.  There’s no surprise that the administration refuses to see the truth about solar power considering that the vice president pledged an additional $102 million grant program for companies, universities and research laboratories to further expand solar power use. It is clear that the administration is ignoring all warning signs and doing whatever it can to shovel more tax money to an unproven and financially risky power source.  Solyndra quickly became synonymous with wasteful spending and government absurdity after it received $535 million from taxpayers then went bankrupt. And, when news broke in 2011 that Solyndra was laying off 1,100 employees, just two years after receiving the loan guarantees, much of the American public was outraged.

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The Coming Green Bubble: New Report Exposes Parallels Between Big Solar Financing Schemes and Housing Meltdown

David Williams on July 8, 2015

report cover
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA)
released a brand new report about the heavily-subsidized solar industry titled, From Washington to Wall Street: How Government Policies are Skewing Solar Investments (click here). TPA concludes that Big Solar’s heavy reliance on risky financing schemes, combined with government handouts, is creating conditions that could generate a “bubble” in the solar market just as Washington policy produced the housing and financial collapse.  This report is another one in the series analyzing the impact of government solar subsidies and preferential treatment on taxpayers and consumers. The new report also contains a link (click here) that details the generous solar subsidies by state.  “Taxpayers are being left defenseless between two powerful lobbies, Washington and Wall Street,” said David Williams, President of Taxpayers Protection Alliance.  “This report carefully examines the public and private financing of solar power in the United States and concludes that combining Washington policy with government handouts for Big Solar presents a major threat to American taxpayers.”

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Obama expands his taxpayer-funded solar boondoggles overseas

Drew Johnson on May 28, 2015

President Obama obviously doesn’t learn from his mistakes. And taxpayers are paying the price.  After frittering away $535 million on the Solyndra solar energy boondoggle, which promised to revolutionize solar power, but ultimately did nothing more than devour tax dollars and leave 1,100 Americans without a job, the president has continued has continued to burn through an average of $39 billion annually on various subsidies to support solar energy here in the United States. Despite the billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded handouts the president gave to the solar industry, solar power remains responsible for just 0.6 percent of the electricity used in America.  But that’s not the worst of it.  The Obama Administration’s indefensible use of taxpayers’ money to bankroll solar boondoggles is now spreading to other nations. As a result, Americans’ tax dollars are quietly going to fund other countries’ solar schemes.  Earlier this year, the president announced $4 billion in handouts to expand India’s solar energy infrastructure. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency promised India $2 billion in loans for solar energy storage projects, and the taxpayer-backed Export-Import Bank pledged $1 billion to underwrite the country’s solar power ventures. Another government agency, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, loaned India an additional $1 billion for various solar initiatives. » Read More

SolarCity needs a lesson in customer service

David Willaims on April 20, 2015

Anyone who has ever been frustrated by a customer service department can sympathize with clients of SolarCity. The company is the solar energy brain-child of billionaire Elon Musk, and recipient of roughly $500 million in taxpayers’ money.  Long phone calls, hidden fees and a general lack of efficiency have been the story with a large number of customers who entered into SolarCity’s popular solar panel ease option.  According to Watchdog.org, SolarCity has generated a large number of cases involving poor installation, says Gerald Chapman, building inspector manager of San Mateo County, California.  Among the disgruntled customers is Jeffery Leeds. The Northern California resident signed a 20-year lease on solar panels and shelled out an up-front fee of $600 after SolarCity claimed his utility bills would drop by an average of $168 a month.  After installation of the SolarCity panels, Leeds’ electric bills increased by nearly $150 a month, according to Watchdog.org. Worse, he was still forced to pay the second largest solar energy provider in the country almost $44,000 in lease payments over the next 20 years, “with no way out.”

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Solar Industry May Be Losing Some Shine

on January 5, 2015

It’s no doubt been a sweet and easy ride for the solar energy industry in recent years, given the political favoritism and fawning media treatment that almost always casts these companies in a positive light. But that long loving honeymoon may finally be coming to an end as more watchful members of Congress, along with the Arizona Corporation Commission, are finally taking note of the questionable practices through which the solar rush is gaining ground. » Read More

How taxpayers can get burned by solar scams

Sean Paige on November 22, 2014

(The following op-ed originally appeared in The Ahwatukee Foothills News[Phoenix, Ariz.] on November 22, 2014) “Buyer beware” is always a good rule of thumb when weighing some “deal” that seems too good to be true. But it should be “taxpayer beware” or “ratepayer beware” when the “deal” in question involves a solar power system, since the bargain being offered often involves pilfering from one pocket (taxpayers) to fill another (solar power companies).

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been doing extensive research into the shadier side of solar energy. And one of many questionable practices we’ve seen is how some politically-connected solar companies have found sly ways to pocket tax credits for themselves that should be going to their customers. Here’s how the “deal” works.

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California taxpayers burned by government-backed Solar City

David Williams and MichiIljazi on October 1, 2014

(The following op-ed originally appeared in The Fresno Bee [Fresno, Calif.] on October 1, 2014)One of the worst energy policies being perpetrated by the government on California taxpayers is the subsidization of alternative energy. Solar power has been one particular area of concern.  The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been doing extensive research and grassroots outreach to households with SolarCity solar panels.

The biggest concern is that rooftop solar companies, like Elon Musk’s SolarCity, Corp., which are politically connected and favored, have found a way to claim the tax credit for themselves. These companies discovered that if they lease the rooftop solar systems to homeowners, the companies themselves can claim the federal tax credit as well as all state and local incentives.

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Rooftop Solar Companies Cash In on Government Handouts

David Williams on July 24, 2014

(The following op-ed originally appeared on Townhall.com on July 24, 2014)You can’t help but hand it to them – rooftop solar companies have quite cleverly found their way onto the government’s gravy train.

For years Washington has subsidized rooftop solar installations for customers in the form of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which allows homeowners who install rooftop solar panels to receive a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost. 

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