Lawmakers are probing the Biden administration’s decision to grant an unprecedented $3 billion loan to a solar company accused of scamming elderly dementia patients, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the top Republicans on the Senate and House energy committees, have asked the Department of Energy to turn over records regarding the loan to Sunnova Energy by Dec. 21.
The request comes after the Free Beacon reported on allegations that Sunnova representatives persuaded elderly dementia patients, some on their deathbeds, to sign multi-decade solar panel leases.
“We are alarmed about recent, credible reports that Sunnova has racked up numerous consumer complaints, including those alleging troubling sales practices, such as Sunnova pressing elderly homeowners in poor health to sign long-term contracts costing tens of thousands of dollars,” wrote Barrasso and McMorris Rodgers in a letter to the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) director Jigar Shah.
The lawmakers said the allegations are “particularly troubling, as LPO has stated this program will focus on disadvantaged communities.” They asked Shah to provide details about the DOE Loan Programs Office’s prior knowledge of the consumer complaints, its plans to monitor Sunnova’s sales tactics, and who was involved in approving the loan to Sunnova.
The $3 billion loan—the largest federal loan to a solar company in history—will help finance Sunnova’s solar panel loans to “disadvantaged homeowners and communities,” according to the company. The loan was announced in September.
The Free Beacon reviewed at least 50 consumer complaints that have been filed against Sunnova with the Texas attorney general’s office since last year, for issues ranging from maintenance delays to allegedly predatory sales tactics.
Barrasso and McMorris Rodgers said there have also been at least 1,000 complaints filed against Sunnova in Puerto Rico, including “claims of misleading consumers and failing to deliver lower energy bills as promised.” The lawmakers noted that 20 percent of the federal funding to Sunnova will fund solar panel loans to customers in Puerto Rico.
Terry Blythe, a Texas resident, told the Free Beacon that her father was 86 years old and had been diagnosed with dementia when a door-to-door Sunnova salesman persuaded him to sign a 25-year solar panel lease in 2020. When her father passed away earlier this year, Blythe said she was left saddled with the $34,000 contract.
Another Texas resident, Mary Loller, told the Free Beacon that her elderly father was senile and had been given months to live when a door-to-door Sunnova salesman sold him a $60,000 solar system for his mobile home last year.
My dad told [the salesman] at that time he was on hospice and dying. And basically, he wasn’t in his right mind,” said Loller.
Her father passed away soon after. Loller said Sunnova placed a lien on the mobile home, which prevented the family from selling the property.