04:28:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 689 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar

Solar Tariffs - What Does this Mean for You?

After months of discussion, the Trump administration imposed 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and completed solar modules (like the LG modules that we use exclusively). The news made a pretty big splash, but it has mostly left potential solar clients confused about what it really means. We are still sorting through this ourselves, but here are our preliminary thoughts.

How did we get here?

Last April, bankrupt panel manufacturer Suniva—operating out of Georgia, but actually a subsidiary of China’s Shunfeng International—filed a trade case claiming it was damaged by the “dumping” of inexpensive solar modules from China and elsewhere.  They sought trade protection in the form of tariffs to drive up the cost of competitor’s products, so that their panels would be cheap enough for people to purchase.  We wrote at length about this at the time: Suniva - the Tail Wagging the Dog

Shortly thereafter, SolarWorld—another manufacturer operating in Oregon, but German owned—joined the case.  The irony here is that some of the modules targeted by this trade case - like our LG modules - are already considerably more expensive than those made by Suniva or SolarWorld!

Moreover, solar module manufacturing tends to be highly automated, meaning there just aren’t that many jobs at issue; whereas rising prices could seriously impact solar installation jobs, which are far more numerous (and which can’t be outsourced, for that matter!). 

Despite all of that, the Administration imposed tariffs in the name of protecting American jobs.

What will this do to the cost of solar?

Which brings us to the obvious question of what will this cost consumers.  First and foremost, for our clients, if you have signed a contract with us, your cost will not change at all.  Indeed, our pricing changes on February 7, so contracts signed before then will be unaffected as well.

But we aren’t going to see a full 30% price increase on modules because prices have been mostly flat for the past six months.  That means that the normal price decreases we have grown accustomed to haven’t happened while LG, and every other manufacturer, waited to see what would happen.  In fact, it looks like our most popular module, the LG 335’s, will only increase in price by 13%.  Moreover, module costs are no longer the driving number in our solar installs, accounting for between 20 and 25% of the total system cost.  That means that a module increase of 13% translates into something like a 3-4% overall increase.  A useless waste of money to be sure - but not a game changer.

Exempt Me!

LG makes a premium product that is substantially different than the product offerings from either Suniva or SolarWorld.  For example, the LG 335’s that we have been installing lately are N-type modules, compared to the P-type modules sold by Suniva.  Beyond that, the LG 360’s that we are installing are back contact N-type modules, making them doubly more sophisticated that what the complainants offer.  These are premium products that do not directly compete with the more standard, commodity offerings that they are accused of harming.  Bottom line - people choose the LG modules that we are offering because they are a clearly superior product, albeit at a premium price.

While I’m no expert here, it is my understanding that a manufacturer can petition to be exempted from the tariffs if they can demonstrate that they do not directly compete with the complainants’ products.  LG is pressing that point, and it is possible that they will prevail in their argument and be exempted entirely from the tariff, although we won’t know that for some time.

Stay Calm - and Go Solar!

The bottom line here is that as short-sighted and ham-handed as this decision was, it will not radically change what we do and how our clients will be charged.  If you were considering going solar, there will be little economic impact to the value of going forward due to this new tariff. 

So let’s all take a breath, stay calm, and continue to do what we’ve been doing for more than a decade - helping people by putting the highest-value solar systems on their roofs, providing them with clean, affordable energy for years to come.


  10:07:00 am, by admin   , 180 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Pasadena Solar

Run on Sun Founder & CEO, Jim Jenal, Profiled in VoyageLA

Here at Run on Sun, we place great emphasis on being a local company - both Sara and Jim live in Pasadena, and it is not uncommon for us to run into a client at the grocery store or post office. We believe that because we are so local—and support local institutions like the great NPR station, KPCC—that it informs how we approach our work. It isn’t like we can build a project and disappear!

So we also believe in working with local publications to spread our story.  (For example, you may soon receive a copy of Neighbor2Neighbor in your mailbox, highlighting hand-picked local companies, where Run on Sun will be appearing for the second year in a row.)  We like the idea of a local company supporting other local companies!

Which makes us really pleased to highlight the recent profile of Jim in VoyageLA, an online publication that seeks to tell LA’s stories.  Under the headline,  Meet Jim Jenal of Run on Sun in Pasadena,  you can learn Jim’s backstory, and the founding of Run on Sun. Check it out!

Jim Jenal, Founder & CEO


  10:20:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 491 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

How NOT to Advertise for Solar

We see lots of ads for solar companies - most banal, some clever, some downright fraudulent.  Sadly, it is the last of those three that concerns us today.  Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t try to get us to sign on to their lead generation campaign, and we tell them we don’t buy leads.  Here’s why…

Consider this ad that we came across on Facebook:

Misleading solar facebook ad

There is so much wrong with this that it is hard to know where to begin.  This is a sponsored post, which means that it is an advertisement - but for whom?  They have a Facebook page, and a link to a website, but no information about who they are, or where they are located.  As of this writing they have 744 reviews, 723 are 5 star, but oddly the bulk of those came on the same day!  

But moving on, let’s check out the lede: “Attention CA Homeowners: There’s a new 2018 policy your energy provider does not want you to know!”

No, actually, there is no such “new ” policy in  2018, at least as it relates to solar.

Then the ad veers into making claims about Tesla’s (not really a product) Solar Roof, so the reader would be forgiven if they assumed that this was a Tesla/SolarCity ad - but it is not.  (And the weird picture next to a Tesla PowerWall has nothing to do with the (not really a product) Solar Roof, so why is it there, other than to get the name Tesla before the reader.)

But here’s the real tease: “First 300 Qualified Applicants Even Have FREE Install. Click to see if qualify!"  Well, who doesn’t love free?  Boy, I wonder if I can qualify?  Let’s click and see…

Do you qualify?

Okay, kinda creepy that it knows I’m in Pasadena, but I wonder what that Solar Panel Program might be?  How about this gem of mangled syntax: “California Government has categorized the Solar Energy in one of its key campaigns, and now you can reap the benefits."  What does that even mean?

In case your sense of urgency is not high enough, they’ve got this incentive:

“Solar programs are so popular that the California resident-only fund is running out of money.”

Let’s be perfectly clear - there is no such “California resident-only fund” for solar. 

Everything about this ad is misleading, and intentionally so.  What happens if you finally click to “See if you qualify?"  They harvest your contact information and sell it to solar companies who purchase scammy leads like this.  And then your phone will start ringing, from both real people and robocallers, trying to convince you to buy solar from a company whose ethics are so sketchy that they agree to do business with these folks.

If you are thinking about going solar, please avoid traps like these.  They are plenty of real, honest, local solar companies that would love to help and not rip you off.  And hey, if you are here, you’ve already found one!


  11:15:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 947 words  
Categories: Residential Solar, Ranting, Solar Policy, CALSSA

Solar Policy Progress!

CALSEIA Staff and Members lobbying in Sacramento

CALSEIA Staff and Members lobbying in Sacramento, August 2017.

We wrote the other day that securing sustainable solar policy is not a spectator sport, that it requires all of us to roll up our sleeves and do the work needed.  Leading that charge here in California are our friends over at CALSEIA, and I think it is helpful to motivate others to join in when they can see positive results. 

After all, winning begets winning (well, ok, maybe it didn’t in Game 7, but wait ’til next year!), and recently CALSEIA published a list of policy victories this year that I thought you would like to see. 

So check it out, so much winning!

AB 1070 - Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego)

Currently solar installers decide what information they will provide to potential clients, and it varies all over the lot, with many companies simply providing “generic” solar system quotes (i.e., this will be a 4.5 kW system for $4.50/Watt).  On the other end of the continuum are the quotes that we provide, calling out all of the equipment we propose to use, how much each line item will cost, a detailed analysis of your savings (using Energy Toolbase, the most sophisticated tool available) and payback over time.  We disclose all of our assumptions (such as energy costs increasing by 3%/year), and lay it all out in a clear and easy to follow format.

AB 1070 will drag some of those less forthcoming companies into the light.  From the legislative counsel’s digest:

This bill would require the [CSLB], in collaboration with the Public Utilities Commission, on or before July 1, 2018, to develop and make available on its Internet Web site a disclosure document that provides a consumer with accurate, clear, and concise information regarding the installation of a solar energy system, as specified. The bill would require this disclosure document to be provided by the solar energy systems company to the consumer prior to completion of a sale, financing, or lease of a solar energy system, as defined, and that it, and the contract, be written in the same language as was principally used in the sales presentation and marketing material. The bill would also require, for solar energy systems utilizing PACE financing, that the financing estimate and disclosure form satisfy these requirements with respect to the financing contract, as specified. The bill would also require the board to post the PACE Financing Estimate and Disclosure form on its Internet Web site.

The bill would require the Contractors’ State License Board to receive and review complaints and consumer questions, and complaints received from state agencies, regarding solar energy systems companies and solar contractors. The bill would, beginning on July 1, 2019, require the board annually to compile a report documenting complaints it received relating to solar contractors that it shall make available publicly on the board’s and the Public Utilities Commission’s Internet Web sites.

This is something we have been advocating for a long time.  Hopefully the CSLB and the CPUC will craft an easy-to-understand document that will help consumers make meaningful comparisons between competing quotes.  We are also pleased that this requires the contract language to track the language of the sales presentation and marketing materials - which in many cases they do not.  On top of that is the requirement for the CSLB and the CPUC to document complaints against solar contractors and to publicize those complaints on their website for all to see.

This bill won’t solve the problem of shady solar contractors, but it is a giant step in the right direction.

AB 1414 - Laura Friedman (D-Glendale)

It used to be that local jurisdictions could charge whatever they liked for solar permits, and getting those permits could take weeks, even for the smallest resi-install.  That was changed a few years ago and permit fees for small PV systems were capped at $500, although realistically, they are supposed to be limited to the actual cost of providing the service.  Some jurisdictions have done a lot to live up to the spirit of the requirement, and both the City of Los Angeles and LA County now have very reasonable permit fees.  Other jurisdictions, however, magically charge that $500 maximum no matter what.   Funny about that.

The cap on those fees was due to expire come January 1, 2018, but AB 1414 extends the cap for seven more years, and lowers the cap from $500 to $450, and extends the cap for both ground-mounted systems as well as solar thermal systems.  Big win.

Other Wins

Some other victories include:

  • AB 634 - Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) - prohibits HOAs from establishing a general policy that forbids the installation or use of a rooftop solar energy system for household purposes on the roof of the building in which the owner resides, or a garage or carport adjacent to the building that has been assigned to the owner for exclusive use.
  • AB 1284 - Matthew Dababneh (D-Calabasas) - Requires PACE lenders to make a “reasonable good faith effort” to ensure borrowers have the ability to repay their loans based on income, assets and current debt obligations.  Too often shady contractors prey on low-income and/or non-native English speakers to sign up for PACE loans that they really do not understand.  This law should help curb that practice, along with…
  • SB 242 - Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) - Mandates that PACE providers have calls with all homeowners before they take out the loan to ensure they understand the terms.

Collectively these measures strengthen the solar industry in California, while providing important consumer protections.  CALSEIA’s work - and that of its members - was key in achieving these results. 

But there’s lots left to do - CALSEIA’s legislative analysis list has many “Failed” entries on it where vital measures were either stalled or defeated outright.  So get involved - this is not a spectator sport!


  09:42:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 425 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

This is Not a Spectator Sport

Run on Sun is a proud member of CALSEIA - the California Solar Energy Industry Association - and its Executive Director, Bernadette Del Chiaro, is a powerful voice for the solar industry in the state.  Recently Bernadette penned a Call to Action that I wanted to share with my readers.  Titled “This is Not a Spectator Sport,” Bernadette starts with this crucial observation:

For the casual observer, energy politics in California seems easy, especially for solar and storage. What’s there not to like? The voters – left, right and in between - love it. Clean energy is a priority for top politicians. The facts and engineering are on our side. We are significant job creators and marketplace momentum is making clean energy inevitable.  Easy, right?

Wrong. Energy politics in California is anything but easy.

We understand this quite clearly, and we have been involved in numerous efforts this year - from attending a meeting at Assemblymember Holden’s Pasadena office, to participating in the lobbying day in Sacramento, to making numerous phone calls to express our concerns about various policy issues that have come up over this past year.

Sadly, some people seem to think that the solar industry is elitist, and that our clients are only the affluent, but that is far from the reality of solar.  As Bernadette noted:

The local solar and storage industry is anything but monochromatic. We are union and non-union. We are rural and urban. We are big and small. We are established and entrepreneurial. We are Republican and Democrat. There is strength in our diversity, but only if we are known to our local lawmakers….

We have far more power that we leave on the table simply because we are not fully engaged. Politics is not a spectator sport and whether you like it or not, your business is dependent on politics and policy. So, let’s stay calm, be smart, and let’s get on the field and engage.

Bernadette is right - securing positive solar policy is not a spectator sport, it requires all of us to engage.  If you are in the industry, you should belong to CALSEIA (or your local SEIA if outside of CA) - here’s the link where you can join

If you have solar at your home or business, you could join the California Solar CitiSuns to stay informed about action items that will help preserve the value of your investment.  Collectively there are hundreds of thousands of us here in California, and we can be a powerful voice, but we need to step up and get involved!  Thanks, Bernadette, for the timely reminder!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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