seeking a solar attorney

nichtwichtignichtwichtig Solar Expert Posts: 27
I'm about to sign a 20-year contract for a PV system. Everyone agrees that consulting an attorney is a good idea. Where do I find an attorney familiar with:
1. solar contracts
2. my state laws (California)
3. my utility (Pacific Gas & Electric)
?

Thanks.

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,318 admin
    Re: seeking a solar attorney

    I don't have an attorney, but I do live in PG&E (just south of San Francisco) and have a GT Solar power system.

    You might try contacting the various solar/state PUC customers advocates and see if they have recommendations.

    From what little I know--Everything PG&E sends and posts on the Tariffs website always say things are subject to change (laws, state PUC regulations, etc.).

    As I understand, we are at the mercy of the California PUC (who responds to laws, utilities, and various customer organizations).

    At this time, it appears the new rules will be the CPUC will "guarantee" 20 years of the present net metering method/rate plans (in general) for systems installed through July of 2014 (or something like that).

    If your system was installed prior to 2014 (my system is ~ 10 years old)--I believe that I have 10 years of grandfathering. If your system is installed past July 2014, your 20 year clock starts on July 2014.

    The paper work I got 10 years ago was mostly to make sure I had permit/inspection, and that I (basically) had homeowner's insurance.

    If you have a lawyer go through the new contracts and forms--You probably have the option of "accepting them" or rejecting them. You probably will not be able to redline the documents to your (attorney's) liking (and PG&E accepting them).

    Here is a recent newspaper article (forum thread) about what was just proposed (agreed to?):

    Net Metering Extended by California Regulators


    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • pleppikpleppik Solar Expert Posts: 62 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: seeking a solar attorney
    BB. wrote: »
    IIf you have a lawyer go through the new contracts and forms--You probably have the option of "accepting them" or rejecting them. You probably will not be able to redline the documents to your (attorney's) liking (and PG&E accepting them).

    The other thing a good lawyer will be able to do--and I think this is probably where most of the value is in this scenario--is to help the client understand how the contract is likely to play out under various scenarios. What happens, for example, if: the house is sold and the buyer doesn't want the lease; the array is damaged in a natural disaster; the leasing company goes out of business; the house is foreclosed upon; and so forth.

    You may not be able to change the contract, but at least you can go into it fully informed and with an appreciation of the possible gotchas.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,318 admin
    Re: seeking a solar attorney

    Yes, you are correct... I was thinking about the 20 year Net Metering by the Utility/State PUC and those (probable) changes down the road.

    You are looking at signing a 20 year "lease" agreement with somebody. That is a whole different kettle of fish.

    Look at the underlaying pricing (start out at 80% of present utility billing/rates and add X% per year). In general, utility pricing has not gone up that much (at least in California) for many years--Especially if you don't use a lot of power (A/C, electric heating, etc.).

    I wondered if some the leasing plans could end up charging more than utility pricing after 5-10 years.

    There is the end of lease issue... Can you buy the system for a low price--Or is the final price pretty high? What about if the system is removed--Who pays, who repairs the roof, etc.

    And what happens if the state (or feds) change the rules on leasing? There is a lot of "possibly questionable" things are are done by leasing companies to allow them the maximum "tax benefits" that they can get. Tax breaks that you cannot get as a home/solar system owner.

    Here is an old thread (most of the links have gone stale)... But is does give you some more ideas of what to watch for...

    For example, say you get a "big" system (parents + 3 teenagers). 10 years down the road the kids are moved out and your power bill is 1/2 what it was. You can be responsible to buy the original contracted quantity of power from the leasing agent.

    Cities are looking for more money... They are adding taxes on the transacation between the Leasing Agent and the home owner (not clear who may be responsible for paying the taxes). And such:

    Sun Run PV leasing


    Personally, I rather own. But some of the more recent contracts seem to be cheaper than owning... Hard to ignore.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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