Sunnova Probe Begins In House


In a recent development, Sunnova Energy Corporation, a solar energy company based in Houston, has come under scrutiny following allegations of deceptive sales practices, particularly targeting elderly individuals. This controversy has surfaced despite the company recently receiving a substantial $3 billion loan guarantee from the Biden administration, which marks the largest federal commitment to solar power to date. The deal, announced on September 28, aimed to bolster residential and commercial solar energy but is now overshadowed by these emerging concerns.

Republican leaders, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, have voiced their alarm. They are particularly troubled by reports that Sunnova engaged in predatory sales strategies, pressuring vulnerable elderly homeowners into signing expensive, long-term contracts. These accusations include instances of elderly individuals in poor health being coerced into agreements costing tens of thousands of dollars.

In a letter addressed to Jigar Shah, director of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) at the U.S. Department of Energy, the Republican lawmakers cited various consumer complaints and interviews. These reports reveal distressing situations where elderly individuals, some nearing the end of their lives, were locked into substantial contracts. For instance, Mary Loller recounted how a Sunnova salesman sold her hospice-bound father a $60,000 solar system for his mobile home shortly before his death, resulting in a lien on the property that hindered its sale.

Another case involved Texas resident Terry Blythe, whose 86-year-old father, diagnosed with dementia, was persuaded by a Sunnova salesman to purchase a 25-year solar panel lease in 2020, valued at $34,000. Blythe described the situation as a significant financial burden and a blatant exploitation of elderly individuals.

Concerns about Sunnova’s practices are not new. As early as 2019, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau released a report affirming some customer complaints about misleading information regarding solar panel financing and contract terms. The Republican leaders’ letter highlights that these issues are not isolated to one region but are prevalent across various parts of the country, raising serious questions about the company’s sales tactics.

In response to these allegations, McMorris Rodgers and Barrasso are demanding the Energy Department provide detailed documentation and information addressing these concerns. The Department has been given a deadline of December 21 to furnish the requested information to the lawmakers. This situation not only casts a shadow on Sunnova’s practices but also puts the spotlight on the oversight of federal loan guarantees, particularly those intended to support disadvantaged communities.