Equity in Washington Solar

Washington State is making strides in protecting solar energy customers with the introduction of Senate Bill 2156 (SB2156). This landmark legislation, known as the Solar Consumer Protection Bill, mandates clear, comprehensive standards for solar energy installation contracts, ensuring transparency and safeguarding consumer interests. At Northwest Electric and Solar, we fully support these initiatives and are committed to exceeding these regulatory requirements to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction and industry integrity.

Why Does Washington Need This Law?

If you spend much time online, you are bound to encounter ads tempting you to go solar at no cost. However, according to local utilities and the state’s leading trade association for the solar sector, there is no such thing as “free” rooftop solar power systems in Washington.

Out-of-state sales lead generators and marketing companies are responsible for most of the dubious solar energy ads you encounter online. Deceptive and high-pressure in-person tactics also generate complaints to the state government, notably when salespeople overpromise on incentives and electricity bill savings. Sometimes, homeowners have reported flawed installs that damaged their homes and their new solar panels not working correctly.

Lawmakers Take Action

In Olympia this winter, state lawmakers took a stab at addressing these issues by strengthening consumer protections for solar installations. Until now, the state’s consumer protection code did not have provisions specific to this fast-growing sector. The Washington State Department of Commerce, WASEIA, locally based solar contractors, and electric utilities teamed up with the state Legislature to develop the new rules and enforcement mechanisms.

Quote Icon

“This bill would help residents and businesses understand what they will and will not be getting with a solar energy install, prevent deceptive solar sales tactics, and create an ability to hold bad actors accountable,” said Nora Hawkins, Senior Energy Policy Specialist at the Washington Department of Commerce.

Quote Icon

Steps for Consumers

Ultimately, your best protection against disreputable companies is to be armed with knowledge and the right questions:

Ask any solar contractor you are considering to tell you about the Solar Consumer Protection Act. If they don’t know anything about it, proceed with caution.

Please make sure you clarify the cost of the system, whether presented pre- or post-federal tax credit, and understand that labor warranties are offered to you. Most solar equipment has a warranty for 25 years or more, so ideally, the labor warranty provided by contractors should match it.

Always get more than one bid before selecting a contractor. By carefully evaluating the different presentations and contracts, you can ensure you are getting the right system from a reputable contractor. We want YOU to be excited about moving forward with solar, whether with us or another reputable installer.

WASEIA Members – the Best of the Best

While locally based solar companies are typically more invested in their local community and strive to establish a positive reputation for sustained success, the level of expertise and integrity can still differ among these companies. How do you know which local solar companies you can count on? Look no further than WASEIA. As dedicated WASEIA members, we are bound to uphold our Code of Conduct, which holds our members to the highest ethical and workmanship standards. When you choose one of our member companies, you can fully trust their services. Additionally, all WASEIA member companies have been provided in-depth information on complying with the Solar Consumer Protection Act.

If you have an issue that you cannot resolve directly with one of our member companies, WASEIA can help advocate for your rights with that member.

To find a reputable solar installer in your area, visit the member page on the WASEIA website.

Compliance and Customer Protection

At Northwest Electric and Solar, we are not just compliant with SB2156; we aim to set the gold standard in the industry. As Washington’s first NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) accredited company and one of only ten in the USA, we take pride in our commitment to excellence and customer care.

Key Provisions of SB2156

SB2156 introduces several critical requirements for solar installation contracts, designed to promote transparency and protect consumers:

Clear and Consistent Contracts:

All contracts must be in writing and use the same language as the sales presentation. This ensures consistency and prevents misunderstandings. Additionally, detailed work descriptions and payment schedules must be included, itemizing necessary electrical or utility upgrades, outlining project milestones, and clear cancellation rights and fees.

Transparent Financing and Cost Disclosure:

Any financing included in the contract must be separately itemized, detailing terms, conditions, interest rates, and any dealer fees or inducements. The cost per watt must also be clearly calculated and disclosed, helping customers understand the value they are receiving.

Component and Maintenance Specifications:

Contracts must specify the model and brand name of major system components, including warranty periods and maintenance costs. Any changes to system components during the contract must be documented and agreed upon by the customer. Additionally, a list of anticipated maintenance activities must be provided to maintain the warranty and performance of the solar equipment.

Production and Savings Estimates:

First-year annual production projections must be provided, based on site-specific considerations and industry-standard tools. Contractors must also provide a good faith estimate of projected electric bill savings over the first 12 months after system interconnection, using the customer’s current electric rate unless a rate change has been approved.

Comprehensive Contractor Information:

The primary salesperson’s and contractor’s information, including business address, license number, and subcontracting disclosures, must be included. This ensures customers have all the details about who will perform the work and how to verify their credentials.

Consumer Rights and Tax Credit Information:

Customers must be informed of their right to cancel within three business days of signing the contract. Additionally, the contract must include information about the residential clean energy credit and its requirements, ensuring customers understand their eligibility and how to utilize the credit.

Commitment to the Washington Solar Industry

The introduction of SB2156 marks a significant step forward in protecting consumers and promoting transparency in the solar energy industry in Washington State. Northwest Electric and Solar is dedicated to exceeding these requirements, providing our customers unparalleled service, quality, and peace of mind. Choose us for your solar needs and experience the difference that commitment to excellence and customer care can make.

For more information about our services and how we can help you harness the power of solar energy, visit our website or contact us today. Together, we can build a brighter, more sustainable future.

user profile image for Manuel Larrain
Manuel Larrain
Manuel Larrain is a Chilean-born US citizen who studied business and sustainability at Western Washington University. Solar energy is his passion, as it is transforming how Washingtonians power their lifestyle. He believes we can address climate change, environmental justice, and steward a brighter future for all of us through renewable energy.