Solar Lease, R.I.P.

David Crane, former president & CEO of NRG Energy, is one of the solar industry's most prophetic and emphatic pundits. When he speaks, the industry (and analysts and investors) listen. Crane's latest opine in Tuesday's GreenBiz: TeslaCity: Will car company + solar company = shareholder happiness?

Worthy of a quick read, Crane lambasts national solar leasing companies (including SolarCity) for their fundamentally fragile business models, specifically their practice of "no money down solar leases." Quick anecdote:

But, most of all, SolarCity needed a quick phase-out of zero-money-down, long-term-lease financing, a funding arrangement which once was essential to the kickstarting of the entire industry, but has mutated into the crack cocaine of home solar companies that still depend upon it.


We receive calls -- probably two or three a day -- from either prospective solar homeowners who were propositioned a solar lease, or existing solar leaseholders (or their Realtors) who are trying to sell their home (with a leased solar system). Solar leases are sugary-sweet on the surface, but the hangover is brutal. 

I hope SolarCity survives -- we enjoy competing with them. Perhaps they'll figure out how to make money. But, leasing solar systems is a bad deal for homeowners, and potentially fatal for SolarCity and its leasing comrades (e.g., Sunrun, Sungevity, Vivint, et al). RIP, solar lease; Viva la vida, solar ownership!