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Can data-sharing solve residential solar's PR problem?

Backed by solar’s largest trade group, startup Recheck is betting that a registry can rein in bad behavior in rooftop solar sales.

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Published
June 20, 2024
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Photo credit: Oliver Berg / picture alliance via Getty Images

Photo credit: Oliver Berg / picture alliance via Getty Images

Recheck, a data and analytics platform focused on consumer protection in the rooftop solar world, today announced the launch of a registry to track the industry’s salespeople and installers.

Deployed in partnership with the Solar Energy Industries Association, the platform will allow financiers to embed Recheck’s vetting system into their account creation process.

  • The top line: Recheck’s platform essentially acts as a nation- and industry-wide tracking system for bad behavior in rooftop solar sales. It assigns individual salespeople their own unique ID numbers, and facilitates data-sharing across companies.
  • The market grounding: The platform launches with a handful of founding partners from around the U.S. residential solar financing ecosystem, including Sunrun, Palmetto, and Mosaic. The program’s launch comes in the wake of allegations of “troubling sales practices” by Sunnova; the solar giant is now facing an investor lawsuit over those complaints.
  • The current take: As a share of total installations, the problem of poor consumer practices in rooftop solar sales is “not very significant,” said Recheck CEO and co-founder Tim Trefren. “But in terms of its impact on public perception and the overall brand of solar, the impact is really felt,” he added. 

While there are so far only 10 or so solar financing companies using the Recheck system, Trefren pointed out that this already encompasses the majority of the “fragmented” industry, where “lots and lots of installers and salespeople” work for just a handful of companies.

Preempting any problems is a top priority for those financiers, he said, but until now, there wasn’t a lot of information being shared between firms. 

“The biggest thing Recheck brings to the table is the ability to get that group together and share information when problems happen,” Trefren said.

Solar sales have been plagued for years by accusations of door-to-door scams and other misdeeds. And while the vast majority of salespeople — especially those working for reputable companies — are acting above-board, it’s a public relations problem with a useful political bent for the GOP. For instance, Congressional Republicans began a probe into Sunnova for "troubling sales practices," while emphasizing that the company won a federal loan guarantee from the Biden administration for a virtual power plant.

Trefren declined to comment on Recheck’s launch in relation to this political leveraging, but said incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act made it a good time to get the program up and running. He anticipates that the law will cause “more and more money” to be devoted to solar, and Recheck is designed to boost rooftop solar penetration. 

“The way that we build trust is perhaps not directly with consumers, but indirectly by helping the rest of the ecosystem identify misconduct, remove misconduct, and get to a point where every experience going solar is a really positive one,” he added.

The rooftop solar ecosystem is quite broad, Trefren said, which makes it a natural fit for a platform like Recheck — between financing companies, installers, and third party salespeople, the number of stakeholders in a single transaction can make things complicated.

That said, Recheck’s registry isn’t solely for solar. Trefren clarified that any industry with “third-party financing, where there are contractors, maybe individual salespeople, and complex transactions, where there may not be tight relationships between the parties,” could be a fit. 

In the future, that could include things like HVAC or storage, he added.

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