Shocker: Stimulus-Funded Solar Firms Under Investigation For Inflating Costs

obama-solar-gulf-spill

More corruption in President Barack Obama’s “green energy” initiatives:

Three of the country’s most prolific installers of residential solar panels are under federal investigation to determine if they inflated the cost of their work to increase the payments they would receive from the government, according to government and industry officials familiar with the probe.

SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity have received subpoenas from the Treasury Department’s office of inspector general for financial records to justify more than $500 million in federal grants and tax credits the firms tapped for performing work. The probe seeks to determine whether the companies accurately reported the market value of their costs when applying for federal reimbursement, which was calculated at one-third of the costs.

The solar companies received money through the Treasury’s $13 billion program, known as the 1603 program, which used funds from President Obama’s stimulus initiative to offer cash grants to clean-energy developers. The goal was to spur the spread of wind farms, solar panels and other clean power sources nationwide.

SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity have been by far the largest recipients among companies installing solar panels on homes. Working heavily in the sunny states of California and Arizona, the three firms collected hundreds of millions of dollars in federal cash grants to pick up a share of their costs on thousands of home installations during the past three years.

But the prices some of these industry leaders charged for their work were sometimes far higher than the broader industry’s market rate, according to solar experts and details of the Treasury investigation released in company reports. While firms can install solar panels for roughly $5 per watt of energy and make a comfortable profit, some firms were charging as much as $7 and $8 per watt.

Gee, government subsidies causing a price bubble? Is this any different than, say, colleges jacking up tuition because they know that students getting government-subsidized student loans can pay the additional cost?

This is what happens with the government distorts markets. Whether we’re talking about higher education or health care or any other good/service in the market, when consumers are disconnected from price you get a bubble.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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