The solar boom has brought challenges and unintended consequences to Canadian homeowners excited about adopting the technology.
Cold-calling and door-to-door solar sales have gotten more common across Canada. Some corporations are profiting from the present grants to sell homeowners on projects using misleading pitches. The Higher Business Bureau has reported a rise in solar scams, including callers phishing for banking information.
Steps should be taken now to maintain Canadians secure and forestall situations like probably the most recent now closed Pink Energy fiasco within the U.S.
A customer’s worst nightmare
Rather a lot will be learned from the above-mentioned Pink Energy debacle. Customers complained of pushy sales tactics that misled them into purchasing solar systems that failed to save lots of them money.
Based on former Pink Energy customers, they were also promised that the vast majority of their solar system costs could be reimbursed by federal tax credits. It was too late when customers discovered they’d been misled and were ineligible to receive federal tax credits.
Pink Energy customers were left scrambling to pay for electricity on top of the expensive loan payments they took out for solar panels.
This story isn’t unique to the U.S.; this also happened (especially through the microFIT days) and continues to occur in Canada.
When homeowners consider investing in a residential solar system, one among their first questions is, “Can I afford it?” Especially now, with rising inflation rates — many Canadians are stretched thin. Homeowners must trust that the data they’re getting about major purchases is reliable. Solar systems aren’t any exception.
“Licensed” may not mean what you’re thinking that
If a solar company is licensed, its salespeople must even be licensed within the states. Otherwise, they risk breaking the law. Whereas in Canada, solar salespeople don’t require any certification. As well as, any licensed electrician in Canada can claim they’re qualified to put in solar panels regardless that they might be lacking the experience and training needed to put in your solar system effectively.
Being licensed as an electrician is different than being licensed to put in solar systems.
Many U.S. states require solar installers to acquire a separate, specialized solar contractor’s license. This shouldn’t be the case in Canada, which implies the onus is on homeowners to search out and hire an experienced solar company.
It will probably be tricky to sort through options for solar installers
Recently, I used to be curious to see if there have been any updates on solar grants in Canada, so I did a fast search on google. I used to be bombarded with sponsored ads like: “solar grants Canada” and decided to do some digging.
Looking into a couple of pages, I noticed solar corporations making it look like the “Canada Greener Homes Grant” is an exclusive rebate their business offers. This will be misleading to homeowners, because it makes it look like you would possibly miss out on funding should you go along with a special solar company.
Misleading marketing tactics
One other commonly used marketing tactic I noticed was a pop-up contact grab. Solar corporations promise to assist prospective buyers learn whether or not their home qualifies for the Canada Greener Homes Grant, in the event that they simply fill of their contact information.
Meanwhile, the eligibility information for the grant is all available on the Government of Canada’s website. With solar scams on the rise, it’s vital customers do their research and look into the credibility of a solar energy company before providing any sensitive information.
Solar scams on the rise
Based on the Higher Business Bureau, solar scams have gotten more common in Canada. In lots of cases, a representative (pretending to work for a solar company) contacts homeowners with the claim of having the ability to install solar panels at a really low price or in response to some reports, for free of charge to the homeowner in any respect. From there, the scammer obtains banking details under the guise of needing to confirm if the homeowner qualifies for reimbursement.
Also reported on the BBB’s scam tracker, a home-owner was approached by a door-to-door salesperson who claimed they may get them a recent roof and solar equipment with a government rebate of 26% off the fee. They were told the rebate would fully cover the brand new roof. After doing their research, the homeowner discovered that while the federal government program did exist, the pushy salesperson was misrepresenting information to make a sale.
Because of an increase in high-pressure tactics and solar scams, the “Canada Greener Homes Grant” principal page now bears the next warning:
“Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics that claim to have ENERGY STAR® or Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) backing. NRCan has not approved any third parties to make unsolicited contact with homeowners to register or take part in the Canada Greener Homes Grant. The Government of Canada, NRCan and its family of brands (ENERGY STAR, EnerGuide) never solicit over the phone, or by email or go door-to-door asking to enter Canadians’ homes to examine, sell, or rent heating and cooling products.”
We will learn from the demise of Pink Energy
In response to allegations about Pink Energy’s salespeople misleading customers with inaccurate information, the CEO explained that his salesforce was paid on commission but in a while switched to salary, however the damage had been done.
Is the commission-based pay structure accountable?
The Pink Energy situation exposes the moral concern of whether or not salespeople within the residential solar space should ever be primarily paid on commission. In relation to residential solar, while it’s an answer to fulfill global, regional and native carbon reduction goals, it’s also a serious investment for homeowners.
Canadians excited about investing in solar must trust that once they’re trying to find out whether a residential solar solution is financially possible, the data they’re getting is honest and accurate. It needs to be a on condition that a residential solar system will likely be designed effectively and installed properly. Nevertheless, not every solar system finally ends up being able to reliably meeting a household’s energy needs for a long time to come back.
Commission-based residential solar sales have gotten more common coast to coast
In a conversation with James Rendle, one among the administrators of Wattsup Solar LTD, he explained that every one salespeople at their company are paid a salary, despite their two largest competitors in Nova Scotia choosing a commission sales structure.
“If someone is paid a commission sales structure, their incentive is all the time to maximise the variety of panels sold or the dimensions of the system sold. Nevertheless, there are numerous places on a roof where panels will be placed in a suboptimal position. Since solar in Nova Scotia is totally unregulated, a salesman could recommend a north facing roof, a shaded roof, or a terrible value proposition because they’re self interested. I often say that our competitors will put panels on the doghouse in the event that they can persuade you it’s a great idea.”
By paying a salary, Wattsup is capable of ensure its sales team has the client’s best interests in mind.
Based on Rendle, it’s unlucky that “many salespeople view solar as a novel model because you will have no repeat business. If a customer is unsatisfied, it doesn’t matter since it’s not like they are going to ever have a must buy a solar system again.”
This mindset of not having to fret about whether a customer is satisfied with their solar installation is problematic value for a salesforce to embody.
I also spoke with Greg Saur, SkyFire Energy’s VP of Sales and Worker Owner. We discussed how commission-based residential solar sales have emerged in Alberta because the solar boom.
“Up to now yr, interest in solar PV has exploded in Alberta to the purpose where most of the original installers have been challenged to fulfill the inbound requests from our referral networks and web-based leads. Others have embraced a business model based on rapid growth and/or profiting from grants and incentives—get em while they last should you will. These organizations are taking a page out of the US playbook and electing to employ door knockers and closers internally or to work with outside organizations who sell these services.”
When it comes to sales tactics, in response to Saur, a few of these emerging corporations with a rapid growth business model try to appeal to the emotions of householders. “These organizations and individuals often depend on the prospect’s “pain” (e.g. a costly electricity bill) to sell their services or products, with lines resembling “you don’t rent your own home, why would you rent your energy?” or “you could be silly not to put in solar now, the federal government is freely giving money and these systems will easily cash-flow on a monthly basis.”
Saur’s advice for homeowners considering solar is to do their research before committing to anything:
“I’d urge anyone approached by a door knocker with a tablet and a slick presentation to take their time and to do their due diligence. Search online reviews and acquire a second quote from someone with longer tenure (e.g. +5 years) working in Alberta. If possible, obtain a referral from someone that you simply respect.”
He also cautions homeowners to be wary of door-to-door salespeople within the residential solar space and to all the time ask whether the person works directly for the installer or in the event that they represent a third-party organization.
Because the Pink Energy situation illustrated, ineffective solar systems could put homeowners under considerable financial strain. To stop this, residential solar salespeople shouldn’t be driven to make a sale to receives a commission. Paying residential solar employees a salary is one solution to remove the potential incentive to make the sale by any means needed.
Nevertheless, it’s not the one viable approach to make sure homeowners receive information they’ll trust.
It’s not so simple as commission pay-structures are solely accountable
A Solar company’s values and proven industry experience matter greater than the pay structure of its salespeople.
It’s a greater indicator of an organization’s ties to its community and their commitment to servicing the systems they install for years to come back. Not every commission-based pay structure incentivizes salespeople to champion an enormous or awkwardly placed system that won’t offer the very best return on investment.
In a discussion with Lorena Mitchell, President of Evolve Green and Chair of the Manitoba Sustainable Energy Association, she describes how her company utilizes a commission-based sales structure for his or her salespeople but maintains a give attention to designing load-shaving solar systems that may offer a great return on investment.
“Our Salespeople are commission only, but we give attention to return on investment for our customers. So, we call it load-shaving, and we get upwards of 9-13% return on investment yearly for our customers. It’s not probably the most panels you’ll be able to get on a roof; it’s probably the most efficient panels you’ll be able to get on there.”
In her experience, Mitchell says she has previously talked homeowners out of panels for the client to get the very best return on investment for his or her solar project.
Based on Mitchell, Evolve Green sees many repeat customers joyful with their initial solar system and choose so as to add one to their cottage or small businesses. Also, when customers sell their homes and move somewhere recent, in the event that they are joyful with their solar provider, they’re more likely to return to them to put in a system on their recent home.
Customer referrals generally is a significant source of leads for a solar company. Subsequently, occupied with solar as an industry without the potential for repeat business is disastrous, especially when Canada’s climate goals require the technology to grow to be widespread in residential areas across the country.
Mitchell’s advice to homeowners considering residential solar is to:
“Do your research; go searching. There’s information on each of those corporations on the market. You would like to get a minimum of 2-3 quotes. Don’t just go along with a flashy salesperson. Search the Higher Business Bureau, and search Facebook. Take a look at the worst review and see how the corporate handled it. No company is ideal, which is why the negative reviews are so telling. It may not be possible to search out a long-standing solar company with all five-star reviews, however it might be possible to search out an organization with high reviews that provided unhappy customers with an answer to their complaints.”
Knowing a regulatory body exists to certify solar installers could be probably the most useful to homeowners when attempting to research solar corporations. This might ensure homeowners know the provider they were going with has a minimum of accomplished solar-specific training.
Solar installers needs to be licensed and overseen by a governing body
On the provincial level, a governing body needs to be created to oversee solar energy corporations and ensure sufficient training has been accomplished before said can advertise themselves as licensed or certified to put in solar. Otherwise, when solar installers advertise themselves as licensed, they might be referring to being a licensed electrician who may or may not have accomplished additional training to put in solar systems.
The difficulty of regulating licensing and training for solar installation has been handled otherwise across the U.S.
How is it done elsewhere?
In California, for instance, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), which is the governing body for all contractors within the state, issues a separate license (the C-46) that’s required for all individuals within the state of California aspiring to bid on solar panel installation or repair projects that exceed $500 in labor and material costs.
With a view to obtain a C-46 license, an applicant will likely be tested on all features of putting in and repairing solar energy systems. The great exam covers planning and estimating, solar collector installation, solar thermal installation, photovoltaic (PV) system installation, commissioning, service and maintenance, and safety. To qualify, applicants must also prove they’ve a minimum of 4 years of relevant experience.
Governing bodies just like the CSLB are chargeable for protecting the patron public by ensuring that any person providing construction and repair services on solar systems is qualified and registered with the state. They administer licensing exams and maintain a database of all lively and inactive contractor license numbers which might be available on the general public domain.
Having a database like this for Canadian provinces could be an amazing help for homeowners trying to find out which solar company to work with on their residential solar project.
If homeowners are expected to adopt solar, Governments must do more
Making a license or certification program for solar systems, overseen by a governing body, would help keep Canadian consumers stay secure from predatory solar scams. A governing body would ensure certain standards are met before someone could legally advertise themselves as licensed or certified to put in or repair solar systems.
In the event you’re surprised a Canadian governing body overseeing solar doesn’t exist already, you’re not alone.
If Canada is to face a probability at meeting its net-zero goals and growing energy demands, homeowners are expected to adopt residential solar.
It follows that governing bodies needs to be created on the provincial level to oversee or “police” the solar industry. Canadians deserve reliable services from qualified solar installers and trustworthy information from knowledgeable salespeople.