Right Hooks

Solar Industry Struggles

SEC is looking into the industries reporting numbers, adding to its bad publicity and stiff market competition.

Thomas Gallatin · May 5, 2017

The Security and Exchange Commission has begun investigating several solar-energy companies due to their alleged failure to disclose to their investors information about canceled contracts and lost customers.

Numerous customer complaints about these companies have been fielded by attorneys general in several states. Common to many of the complaints were stories of various high-pressure sales tactics, which seems to be corroborated by a rather high rate of customers backing out of contracts. SolarCity, which was recently purchased by Tesla, reported that nearly half of its customers were backing out of contracts before solar panels were installed. Another company, Sunrun, cut its growth expectations in half in 2016 from 80% to 40%.

The fledgling solar-energy industry is getting a crash course in market economics, with growing competition both within the industry itself with various new start-ups, as well as the development of more strident regulations in various states.

Despite being propped up by leftists hoping for a “clean energy” revolution, the solar-energy industry is struggling to survive market forces — well-established cheaper fossil fuel industry power and a lack of consumer demand. The Obama administration’s green-energy tactics included heavily subsidizing the failed Solyndra startup, which cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars with nothing to show for it. That brought negative press for the entire industry. Now with Donald Trump at the helm and his push to deregulate coal and other fossil fuel industries, the viability (and desirability) of “green” energy becomes that much more tenuous.

Competing in the free market is challenging and offers no guarantee of success, but hiding numbers from investors and practicing dubious sales tactics — all while raking in taxpayer money — will only invite further distrust of an industry already struggling to gain broad public acceptance.

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