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The Solar Consumer Protection Act

Washington Sets a New Standard for Solar Installation Accountability

Washington Sets a New Standard for Solar Installation Accountability

We’ve got some great news! Today is the day that Washington’s Solar Consumer Protection Act goes into effect. Hooray!

House Bill 2156-S was a collaborative effort between the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Washington Solar Energy Industries Association (WASEIA), local solar contractors, and electric utilities. This act was crafted in response to increasing complaints from homeowners about misleading marketing, over-promised savings, and faulty installations, and it addresses critical aspects of solar installation contracts to enhance transparency and accountability on behalf of consumers.

Support for this legislation was not only unanimous in both the House and Senate, but it was also championed by our fellow WASEIA members, who joined Western Solar in actively calling for increased regulation to safeguard consumers and uphold the integrity of the industry.

Key Provisions of the Solar Consumer Protection Act

The major components of the act include:

  • Mandatory Disclosures: Solar companies must provide prospective customers with a good faith estimate of the projected electricity bill savings and the total itemized cost of installation. This requirement aims to ensure transparency and help consumers make informed decisions.
  • Licensing Requirements: Anyone involved in selling, designing, or installing solar systems must be directly employed by an electrical contractor licensed in Washington. Additionally, contracts are required to disclose whether all or part of the work will be subcontracted to another company. This measure is intended to raise the standard of service and accountability within the industry.
  • Transparent Contracts: Contracts must accurately and comprehensively detail the scope of work, costs, financing terms, warranties, and system performance projections. This helps prevent misunderstandings and protects consumers from misleading claims.
  • Rescission Rights: Consumers can cancel their contracts within three business days of signing without penalty. This provision offers a safeguard against high-pressure sales tactics and gives homeowners time to reconsider their decisions​.
  • Prohibition on Upfront Payments: Contractors are prohibited from charging any payments until the rescission period has ended. This rule is designed to protect consumers from financial loss before they have had adequate time to review their contracts​.
  • Utility Approval: Solar systems must receive approval from the electric utility for compliance and safety before installation begins. This ensures that installations meet safety standards and are properly interconnected to the grid​.
  • Enhanced Enforcement: The Attorney General’s office has the power to impose penalties on companies that fail to comply with the new regulations. This enforcement capability is intended to deter bad actors and provide recourse for affected consumers.

Read the full text of SHB 2156, Washington State Legislature.

Best Practices for Consumers

WASEIA outlined three common-sense steps for protecting yourself from disreputable companies:

  1. 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.
  2. Use this Solar Consumer Protection Bill Information Sheet to review any solar contract before you sign to make sure it complies.
  3. Always get more than one bid before selecting a contractor. By carefully evaluating the different presentations and contracts, you can make sure you are getting the right system from a reputable contractor.

Source: Solar Consumer Protection Bill Passed, WASEIA

A Special Shout-Out

We’d like to give a special thanks to our general manager, Eric Blatz, who serves on the board of WASEIA. Eric sat on the policy committee involved in shaping the bill and dedicated a significant amount of his time to advocating for fair and equitable legislation, ensuring that our industry remains both sustainable and trustworthy.

Trish joined the Western Solar team in July 2014 and has played an active role in designing project schematics, managing the setup and troubleshooting of system monitoring, and keeping the design team running smoothly. She's also mildly obsessed with making spreadsheets.