New Braunfels Utilities officials said they received reports of a door-to-door salesperson soliciting sales claiming to work with a solar company in partnership with NBU.
However, NBU has no partnerships with solar companies and officials are urging customers to avoid sharing their utility bills or personal information with strangers.
NBU engineer Patrick Brawner said from time to time the utility receives reports from customers that they have been visited by a salesperson selling residential photovoltaic systems indicating they are from NBU or that they were in partnership with NBU.
“We actually don’t partner with any solar companies or residential sales (PV systems),” Brawner said. “Taking any sort of favorites in this market could deter new entry for small businesses. It’s just not something we want to pick winners and losers for. It’s not up to us to do that. These contractors have a relationship between themselves and the customers, and the only part where we come in is where they interconnect with us and what the rates look like. That’s the problem we have – people are using our name to generate sales.
Brawner said customers can find solar energy information online at www.nbutexas.com/solar-energy. Customers may also report suspicious activity to [email protected] or 830-608-8951.
He also recommends that customers speak with several different contractors to discuss their needs and goals so that the solar supplier can appropriately size and acquire a system that meets those requirements.
Brawner added that the utility hadn’t received any calls from customers saying they had signed a contract with the door-to-door salesperson during the initial visit, but had scheduled follow-up meetings.
“It should be an informative process for them to become better subject matter experts with this equipment,” he said. “Often what we see is that some customers are under the impression that a solar-only system will power their home in the event of an outage when in reality this equipment is designed to shut down in the event of an outage.”
Brawner said there are many misconceptions customers may encounter.
“Generally the process they have to go through is to meet with several contractors, choose one and ask them to submit plans to us before signing any contracts,” he said. “Once these plans have been approved, that’s when NBU suggests you review and sign legal documents.”
Gregory Thomas, NBU’s Chief Electrical Services Engineer, said there are reputable solar suppliers who talk to NBU’s customers and work with them to get the appropriate solar systems interconnected with the utility.
“We’re definitely here to help facilitate that and interconnect with those solar systems,” Thomas said. “It’s not to the point that it’s necessary for us, the utility provider, to enter that arena and maybe explore a partnership. It could be considered exclusive if we select a handful of vendors, only to then decline other vendors. We will have to be very careful with this process.
Thomas said the utility hasn’t gotten to the point where it has an approved vendor list for solar power providers.
“That’s not to say that in the long term we won’t explore this, but we haven’t seen that need so far,” he said. “There could be pros and cons, but one of the benefits of going in this direction would be providing the correct information to our customers.”
Yes, said Thomas, some vendors may be providing lies to customers – the biggest lie is that they claim to be associated or in partnership with NBU.
“They can try to coin words in very clever ways to make it seem like we’re supporting them in some way as a company interconnecting a system,” Thomas said. “Maybe the second lie they will pass on is that somehow they can reduce your electric bill to zero. This is a very common statement they will make and it is not just isn’t accurate.
Even though the system was sized to offset all of the customer’s electrical consumption, Thomas said a fixed charge would apply.
“There’s just no way to get a zero electricity bill,” he said. “We don’t directly buy back excess where we can offset those fixed costs. A news that they will try to convey is that a solar system could allow them to go through a very serious event. Most systems aren’t there to allow a customer to disconnect from the grid and weather a winter storm on their own (like Feb 2021). »
Thomas said the customer would need a solar system with a large battery, and the vast majority of systems don’t have that capability.
“It’s far from the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last,” he said. “But we absolutely have to step in and try to convey the right information and allow customers to make the best decision possible.
These are very expensive systems, in the tens of thousands of dollars, and the last thing you want is for a customer to install such a system only for it to fail to meet their expectations.