The Solarize Raleigh program has caused so much confusion and angst within the industry that City Councilors have asked that the program be revamped.
The result is a Solarize Raleigh “light” option that would focus on outreach and vendor referrals — rather than the bulk purchasing and installing program originally envisioned. The new program, however, doesn’t have funding.
The change was approved by members of the Technology and Communications Committee Tuesday, but still requires full Council approval.
Originally, the program was referred to committee so members could determine how best to market the city-endorsed program to residents, but the scope of the conversation changed when members of the solar industry objected.
“The big savings promised under the program are a lie,” said Dan Lezama, owner of Sun Dollar Energy. He said customers need and want more education about solar energy.
The North Carolina Solar Center received a $15,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative to run the program. Assistant City Manager Dan Howe said the city’s only involvement is to act as a cheerleader for the program.
The program lowers costs to homeowners by establishing a bulk purchasing program for photovoltaic panels. The program selects one contractor to do the installations — another facet to which small business owners objected.
Steve Kalland, executive director of the NC Solar Center, suggested a scaled-down version of the program, but at this point it’s just a general concept.
Kalland said the Solarize Raleigh Light program would focus on consumer education and outreach. The program would also recruit solar installers and companies who meet certain minimum standards. The program would refer customers to the installers on that list.
The one caveat of this program, said Kalland, is that they would lose the $15,000 grant they received to run the original program.
“We won’t have a budget for this anymore,” Kalland said.
Kalland said the center has some funding from the state and could potentially partner with those in the industry who would want to take on some the costs.
Members of the committee asked that the city’s sustainability office continue to work with the Solar Center on the endeavor.