Ruggiero bill seeks consumer protection for solar customers
STATE HOUSE – Rooftop solar arrays have been popping up all over Rhode Island in recent years, bringing clean energy and decentralizing generation to enrich the state’s electric resources, all while creating thousands of new jobs with dozens of solar installation companies.
But like in any other rapidly expanding industry, there have been some complaints from customers who say their experiences have not been all sunshine and lower electric bills.
Rep. Deborah Ruggiero — a strong proponent of renewable energy who has sponsored laws that helped pave the way for the industry’s rise — is urging state regulators to implement consumer protection measures to ensure that Rhode Island solar customers are getting what they’re promised.
“While there are excellent opportunities and incentives that can make residential solar projects very rewarding, there are many installers doing the work now, and they are not all equal. Consumers need some assurance that the installer is offering them a product that will work for their site. They deserve an honest representation of the energy and savings their system is likely to produce. They need to know the risks, too. If companies want to benefit from our state’s incentive programs, they must be willing to adhere to good business practices that protect consumers,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).
She has proposed legislation (2019-H 5991) seeking to have the Office of Energy Resources adopt greater consumer protection measures for homeowners who invest in solar.
The Office of Energy Resources has already proposed a draft of a consumer protection disclosure, based on one in place in neighboring Massachusetts that would become mandatory for installers. If the form is approved by the Public Utilities Commission, it could be in use by the 2020 round of proposals for Renewable Energy Growth program.
Among the complaints consumers have made about solar installers is that some are overstating the electrical output of systems or the savings consumers can expect from their systems. Others are convincing homeowners to install extra panels to make up for less-than-ideal sun exposure. Others are not helping customers take advantage of all of the available incentive programs.
Representative Ruggiero said she is optimistic that the adoption of the disclosure form will protect Rhode Islanders from unfair practices by installers. If not, she plans to introduce more stringent requirements, she said.
“The state has an interest in encouraging homeowners to invest in solar. It’s better for our environment, our electric grid and our economy. We can do more to help promote solar installations by providing consumer protection and holding the few bad actors in the market accountable,” she said.
The legislation, which had a hearing last week before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) and House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903