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Pink Energy delivers a black eye to residential solar

Consumer complaints lodged against Pink Energy caught the eye of State Attorneys General in nine states.

The evening news on WTVF in Nashville on December 7 had the kind of news that the solar industry would rather not see.

The station’s consumer reporter aired a nearly four-minute story detailing a list of complaints aimed at residential solar installer Pink Energy. The company filed for bankruptcy liquidation in early October. 

Did you get what they promised?, the TV news reporter asked one unhappy customer. “No, not even close,” he replied, noting that he spent around $55,000 for a solar array on the belief that his utility bills would drop to almost zero.

A customer in Ohio told a reporter there, “It’s been 36 months of hell, and I don’t even know what to do anymore.”

Consumer complaints lodged against Pink Energy caught the eye of State Attorneys General in nine states, who asked a handful of lenders in November to suspend consumer loans made for residential solar systems installed by Pink Energy. The letter was signed by AGs from Kentucky, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

The letter said that investigations included allegations that Pink induced consumers into buying solar systems through “false representations” regarding the systems’ capabilities and anticipated electric bill reduction.

A spokesperson for Pink Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A “common thread” throughout the complaints was that the solar systems allegedly “do no provide anywhere near the level of energy savings promised,” and that many customers reported having systems that have “repeatedly malfunctioned, are not functioning at all, or are not certified by the local electric utility” to transmit electricity to the grid. The letter informed lenders that consumers “are now stuck making loan payments for an underperforming or non-performing solar power system on top of their monthly electric bill.”

One of the lenders was Sunlight Financial, a point-of-sale finance company with offices in New York and Charlotte, N.C. In its third quarter financial statement, Sunlight reported that one of its largest contractors (which was not named) experienced a “liquidity shortfall” that caused the installer to substantially wind down its business and begin to liquidate in October. As a result, Sunlight determined it would be unable to collect some $32.4 million that it had advanced to the contractor as of the end of the third quarter.

Sunlight said that while the contractor’s bankruptcy stemmed from issues unrelated to Sunlight or to macroeconomic conditions, the lender still was moving to rewrite “all other contractors in the advance program” and had taken actions to “further reduce” its exposure to counterparty risk.

There other solar finance companies included in the AGs’ letter were San Francisco-based Diversified Solar; Roseville, Calif.-based GoodLeap LLC; Oakland-based Solar Mosaic; and Fort Lee, New Jersey-based Cross River Bank. Renewable Energy World contacted each for comment, but did not hear back prior to publication.

Kentucky’s AG, Daniel J. Cameron, took the lead in arranging the November 22 letter. His office said that it had fielded more than 70 consumer complaints related to Pink Energy, which also did business as Power Home Solar.

“Kentuckians should be able to trust companies to deliver the products they claim to offer,” said Attorney General Cameron in a statement.

Back in Nashville, the WTVF news report ended with a plea from the disappointed solar consumer with $55,000 sunk in a non-functioning system.

“Just come out here and take all this stuff off my house,” he said. “Take all this stuff off my house.”

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