\'abusive\' contracts. defunct solar panels after hurricane maria. texas company hit with more than 400 complaints, investigation finds

by:Tunto     2020-03-22
San Juan, Puerto Rico-after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico\'s power grid and plunged the island into 11 months of darkness, local leaders and activists vowed to start turning the island of Caribbean to distributed renewable sources such as solar and energy independence. But the Texas-
Headquarters companies that own most of Puerto Rico\'s residential solar market have been plagued by hundreds of complaints-from misleading customers to failing to deliver cheaper electricity bills-and are accused of operating a virtual solar monopoly that could hinder the island\'s energy sector transformation.
This month, the Puerto Rico Energy Authority issued a stern report on sunnova energy.
Confirm customer complaints and direct Houston-
Fully disclose the service information provided to customers.
436 clients filed a complaint against the company.
Complaints include: customers who believe they agree to a credit check but have registered 25-
Annual contract with Sunnova.
Sunnova uses solar panels to bring potential savings to its customers.
Sunnova did not fully disclose the cost of solar panel financing to its customers.
\"Sunnova\'s approach in the signing process is inconsistent with the obligations of the Electric Power Company under Puerto Rican law,\" the report said . \".
Sunnova has 20 days to respond to the report, to deny the allegations and to prepare a detailed rebuttal of the energy agency\'s allegations.
\"Sunnova strongly disagrees with the allegations in the recent preb report,\" the company said in a statement . \".
\"We take these issues very seriously and are committed to solving any and all effective issues in good faith.
\"A joint investigation by the news center of the Puerto Rico and USA Today found that,
In various cases on the island, customers feel they are being misled about the solar panel system and have made expensive arrangements that they cannot afford.
Another common complaint is that their solar panels were not working after Hurricane Maria.
Sunnova rents solar panels to customers and installs them using local contractors.
Nagubomadeline Batista, located in the southeast of the island, said she signed a contract with Sunnova in2014 to purchase solar energy and rent 16 photovoltaic panels.
Herbill for panels only, $98 per month for 25 years, and an additional $60 per month to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority or PREPA.
She said that although her electricity consumption remained unchanged, her monthly electricity bill did not fall.
\"It would be great if I could get out of this contract,\" she said . \".
Batista left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and her son lived in North Carolina, but her husband Rafael Rivera stayed to continue paying for the solar panels, she said.
\"This contract is very abusive,\" she said . \".
Puerto Rico\'s power system has been in disrepair for decades, controlled by PREPA, a public company that controls energy generation and distribution on the island.
Bankruptcy proceedings are under way in federal courts.
Sunnova has 65,000 solar customers in the United States. S.
In 2013, its territory began selling solar panels in Puerto Rico as an attractive alternative to expensive PREPA services.
The company soon became a solar leader on the island.
Today, it has about 10,000 residential solar customers in Puerto Rico, accounting for more than 90 percent of the island\'s residential solar market.
Complaints against Sunnova soon began to pile up in the independent consumer protection office, known for its Spanish acronym, acronym, OIPC, a consumer advocacy agency that oversees energy companies.
According to former OPIC director jose Perez Velez, these complaints are mainly related to the insufficient savings promised by Sunnova.
As of 2017, OPIC has registered more than 1,000 complaints related to the Sunnova system. Then, on Sept.
Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017, making the grid and many Sunnovapanels useless for almost a year.
According to PREPA, Maria\'s powerful gust damaged transmission and distribution systems at least 80 percent.
The vast majority of Sunnova\'s residential solar system is a grid-
The battery used for energy storage is connected and missing.
When the power grid is off, the solar system is also off.
The island\'s lack of electricity is fatal to Puerto Ricans recovering from Maria, due to an estimated 2,975 deaths from the storm as sick residents do not have a ventilator or dialysis machine.
MORE: What is needed to improve the power grid in Puerto Rico: The recovery in Puerto Rico after Hurricane marimore: why is it that some parts of Puerto Rico have recovered faster in slydia Rosa, in the state of Carolina, just outside San Juan, she was stunned when her 30 Sunnova solar panels were dormant after Maria.
She believes the company will correct the error by upgrading her to a battery storage system that allows her to exit the grid when it goes out.
Sunnova gave her £ 13 when she called the company. 5-kilowatt-hour (KWh)
For 10 years, the price of the battery is $100 a month, she said.
\"I am unable to absorb the additional fees, other than the fees paid to Sunnova and PREPA,\" Rosa said . \".
\"I am not going to make this arrangement.
She said: \"a representative from Sunnova told her that the company does not allow customers to buy batteries from other suppliers.
\"Puerto Ricans are treated as idiots,\" Rosa said . \"
Knowing that Puerto Rico is an island prone to strong storms and that the grid is in a fragile state, Sunnova officials should be more active in providing customers with solar systems and battery sources
Tom sanzlo of Cleveland said
Institute of Energy Economic and Financial Analysis.
\"You have a basic model and it has a lot of problems,\" he said . \".
\"The Hurricane just tore it apart and showed it was a completely unusable product.
A spokeswoman for Sunnova, Kelsey Smith, saidplus-
Storage \"systems are not widely sold in Puerto Rico, as battery technology has not been fully developed in the years that the company sold these systems, and customers are not easy to pay higher costs.
\"Technology, the market and supply are not needed,\" Smith said . \".
\"Also, since people have never experienced a storm like Maria before, the power outage is so long that the demand for batteries does not exist.
Smith said that after Maria, Sunnova\'s technicians came to Puerto Rico to repair any Sunnova system damaged by the storm for free.
Today, the company only sells \"solar energy-plus-
\"Storage\" system in Puerto Rico.
\"We have been working on Puerto Rico since our first client in 2013 and we are committed to continuing to do so,\" Smith said . \".
John Rodrígues is a retired American. S.
Sergeant raspidras, about 30 miles southeast of San Juan, said he was also surprised when his Sunnova system was unable to work after Hurricane Maria.
He said he paid about $250 a month, including $182 per year for Sunnova\'s increased bill and $3 per month for PREPA.
\"Even if I consume energy, I have to pay more for electricity. . .
\"It has always been the same,\" said Rod Ritz . \".
He said Sunnova officials provided him with batteries, and he could keep the lights on even if the grid was shut down for 10 years and paid an extra $100 a month. But that\'s the price he won\'t bear.
\"Basically, I\'m not ready for the next hurricane,\" he said . \".
\"I need to use a fuel --
If power runs out, power the generator.
\"Sunnova is anxious to monopolize the Puerto Rican residential solar market, mislead customers and install systems that are vulnerable to storms, cecilio Ortiz Garcia, National Institute for Energy and Island Sustainability, University of Puerto Rico
It also created a private monopoly that would slow down efforts to turn Puerto Rico into solar, energy --
It is an independent island, he said.
The competition between solar suppliers is key, Ortiz said, because it reduces costs, improves quality and makes it easier for more families to access renewable energy.
Now, the future of the grid
The bundled solar housing in Puerto Rico is mainly in the hands of Sunnova.
\"Their market model is not optimized for energy independence,\" Ortiz said . \"
\"We basically change one monopoly to another.
Eliwan Martinez melcado reports from Puerto Rico that he is an energy journalism researcher at the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.
Follow his microblog: @ elivenmartinez, or contact by phone: emartinez @ Periodismo investment. com.
Rick Jervis reports in Texas.
Follow him on Twitter: @ Mr rjervis, or contact him at: rjervis @ usatday. com.
The article first appeared in USA Today: \"abuse\" of the contract.
Solar panels have stopped using after Hurricane Maria.
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