Sunrun et al. Helping or hurting the cause?

What Happened When I Bought a House With Solar Panels” is a pretty negative article about Sunrun (the leading residential solar company in the US).

This piece was published on Bloomberg Businessweek a few days ago and exposes the negatives about the Third Party Ownership model (lease-based solutions) in residential solar which we talked about here.

Also, it exposes the negatives that can happen when companies grow too big, too fast, and lose control on their sales teams’ ethics.  I heard similar issues existed inside SolarCity before Elon Musk shrewdly folded it under Tesla so it wouldn’t become a major mess and a stain on his collar.

I have respect for what Sunrun and SolarCity did for putting solar on the map in a big way. They played a critical role in pushing solar into the mainstream. Leveraging their policy influence and billions of dollars of tax equity and wall street capital they created solutions that made sense for the market 6-7 years ago and capitalized on it while keeping the consumers somewhat in the dark. Other large players like Vivint, Sunpower, Sungevity and many others sold these solutions as well.

The lease-based solutions were never the best deal for most consumers but they were certainly easy to understand, and more importantly easy to sell.  As solar prices keep coming down, and consumers get more knowledgeable, these “lease-based solutions” do not make that much sense anymore.

There is no doubt in most cases, owning a solar system is a better deal than leasing one.