Corporation Commission Launches Probe Into Solar Leasing Practices

By Kristena Hansen
Published: Friday, December 19, 2014 - 3:35pm
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The Arizona Corporation Commission decided on Friday to launch an investigation into the business practices of the rooftop solar industry, a move that aims to address mounting concerns that solar leasing companies are misleading consumers.

Leasing is the most popular avenue for going solar because it’s seen as a way for homeowners to save money and energy without the upfront costs of buying solar systems outright. In Arizona, roughly 80 percent of all solar customers lease their systems.

But consumers, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Congress members have been raising concerns that leasing companies might be using deceptive marketing and overstating the cost savings to homeowners. Several Democratic and Republican members of Congress, including Kyrsten Sinema and Matt Salmon, among other Arizona lawmakers, have recently sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requesting the matter be looked into.

In response, the Corporation Commission opted to move forward with its own investigation into the issue, which could take a much broader look at such things as cost and benefits to solar and non-solar customers and utilities. Outgoing Commissioner Brenda Burns said the probe, among other issues before the agency, might not have been necessary if the commission had taken a stronger stance on the net metering debate last year.

“I firmly believe if we had dealt more strongly with the net metering cost-shift, there are a lot of things that’d not be done today, a lot of proposals that would not be before us," Burns said.

The exact scope of the investigation won’t take shape for a few more weeks until the commission, which at that point will have two new members, Tom Forese and Doug Little, receives input and cooperation from various stakeholders.

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