If You Cannot Beat ’em, Be a part of ’em? Dominion Energy Now Promoting Residential Solar – Blue Virginia

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By Ivy Main, cross posted from the Power for the People VA weblog:

Dominion Energy by no means was once blissful about clients producing their very own energy from solar. “Hostile” is extra the phrase that springs to thoughts. The firm has historically seen privately owned solar arrays as competitors: The extra solar panels individuals placed on their roofs, the much less electrical energy they purchase from their utility.

But Virginia has lengthy allowed web metering, and in 2020 our General Assembly got here down firmly on the aspect of consumers by increasing alternatives for onsite solar. Consumers responded with the keenness legislators hoped for. Industry statistics present annual residential solar installations within the commonwealth roughly tripled from 2019 to at the moment.

If you possibly can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Virginia homeowners and businesses in the market for a solar array can now buy it from a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dominion Energy called BrightSuite. The BrightSuite website touts some of the same customer benefits that solar advocates have been pointing out all these years: consumer savings, carbon reductions, stable electric bills. And why shouldn’t Dominion promote solar? As the web site declares, “We embrace change with a commitment first and foremost to meet our customers’ evolving energy needs.”

Well, amen to that! With local weather chaos impacting individuals’s lives and excessive fossil gas costs driving up utility payments sooner than the speed of inflation, clients’ energy wants actually have advanced, they usually do now embrace onsite solar arrays. We simply didn’t count on to listen to that from Dominion.

But that’s okay, we welcome latecomers! Moreover, whereas Dominion’s entry into the residential market will make some individuals uneasy, it may goose demand, rising the distributed solar marketplace for everybody whereas pushing out the price-gougers.

First, although, let’s deal with that unease. Having an affiliate of the native utility compete for a house owner’s enterprise places unbiased installers at a particular drawback. Dominion has a wider advertising attain, and BrightSuite’s use of the Dominion identify carries an implied promise of trustworthiness. In a market crowded with rivals, identify recognition and the peace of mind that an organization isn’t going away any time quickly are distinct benefits.

But Dominion’s entry into the retail solar enterprise may in the end be good for unbiased installers. Dominion doesn’t do something inexpensively, and its home solar providing seems to be no exception. If Dominion persuades extra clients to look into home solar, and people clients then comparability store, corporations that may supply a greater deal will get extra enterprise.

Sarah Vogelsong not too long ago wrote a couple of mission of the HR Climate Hub, which solicited quotes from solar installers for a similar single-family home with the intention to examine costs and repair, and to flag doubtlessly predatory sellers. The web site affords useful recommendation to Virginia owners about how solicit and examine affords. It additionally lists costs and phrases from a dozen corporations, starting from a low of $2.10 per watt from Tesla to a excessive of $5.62 from Power Home Solar. Two small, well-regarded Virginia Beach installers submitted bids of $2.80 and $2.85. BrightSuite’s quote (added after the Mercury article ran) got here in at $3.25.

HR Climate Hub’s figures sq. with info from the Solar Energy Industries Association, which supplies recommendation for shoppers and tracks the common price of residential solar techniques by means of a service known as SolarEvaluations. According to the web site, “As of Jun 2022, the average cost of solar panels in Virginia is $2.66 per watt making a typical 6000 watt (6 kW) solar system $11,797 after claiming the 26% federal solar tax credit now available.”

I requested HR Climate Hub for extra details about the BrightSuite quote and was glad to study the corporate makes use of prime quality REC solar panels that carry a 25-year guarantee, together with microinverters made by Enphase, a top-quality American firm. So, no backside shelf elements right here. However, the quote didn’t point out guarantee or upkeep info for the set up work. These don’t seem on the BrightSuite web site both, other than a one-year efficiency assure.

It goes with out saying that anybody investing 1000’s of {dollars} on a significant home enchancment ought to store round, examine costs, and skim warrantees. Prices listed on HR Climate Hub and SolarEvaluations are a very good place to begin. Where obtainable, bulk buy packages like these provided by Solarize NoVa and Virginia Solar United Neighbors present reductions in addition to professional recommendation.

But it wouldn’t be stunning if even well-informed shoppers select to pay a premium to get a solar set up from BrightSuite just because the corporate is related to their utility. Name recognition goes a great distance in advertising, and a number of clients will need the safety of understanding Dominion Energy isn’t prone to take the cash and disappear into the night time. With this advertising benefit, I count on BrightSuite will rapidly emerge as a market chief despite its higher-than-average value.

Ultimately, nonetheless, Dominion’s entry into the market could develop the pie for everybody. Homeowners who’ve held again from putting in solar as a result of they don’t know who to belief could really feel assured sufficient to name BrightSuite. Once they’ve one quote, many will comparability store.

At the very least, Dominion’s entry into the home solar market ought to set a value ceiling. Why would anybody pay $5 per watt or extra for a solar array from an organization they most likely don’t know something about, after they may get $3.25 from their utility? Price gougers, beware: your time right here is up.

 

This article appeared within the Virginia Mercury on June 17, 2022.

Dear readers: Many of you already know that though I write independently of any group, I additionally volunteer for the Sierra Club and serve on its legislative committee. The Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter urgently wants funds to assist its legislative and political work in the direction of a clear energy transition. So this summer time I’m passing the hat and asking you to make a donation to our “Ten Wild Weekends” fundraising marketing campaign. Thanks!

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