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Solar Fred Warning…again: Citizenre

Warning Sign

I just want to update my warning about Citizenre because of a comment I read on a Treehugger.com forum about someone thanking Ed Begley, Jr for his referral to Citizenre. The commenter not only thanked Ed, but said they were happy with the Citizenre service…which is impossible.

First of all, for those who don’t know, Citizenre is a company that is supposed to rent solar panels. That’s great, and nothing new there. Many companies are doing some version of a solar lease or a solar PPA.

However, I find it difficult to believe that any Citizenre system is working or sold, as of the writing of this post in July 2009 January 2010.  First of all, as of July 2008, Ed Begley, jr has had nothing to do with the company. How do I know? Through this Citizenre press release.

Second, Citizenre’s business plan is based on making its own solar panels. Yet, its own website says that its factory location has not even been decided—let alone built. It also encourages those who do not want to wait for their factory to buy a system now through a NABCEP certified installer. This is from their own website. Read their full statements here. But I quote:

We want to make very clear that the location of Citizenre’s manufacturing facility is still in negotiation. And, as with all scheduling, delays can occur. If you have the financial ability to buy a PV system today, we urge you to do it. Our environment and economy need you to act as soon as possible.

I admire Citizenre for its goals of renting solar and also for being fairly honest that it is nowhere near providing this service. (Think about it: The factory location doesn’t even have a location! Citizenre is years away…if ever.) I also commend the company for not taking any deposit money upfront. Their intentions seem to be well meaning, but their business plan is apparently very flawed.

As the Citizenre’s own website suggests, please don’t delay getting solar. Solar quotes are generally free, so you have nothing to lose by getting a quote from a NABCEP installer in your area–as Citinzenre also suggest in the full statement. And if you live in a net metered state with solar subsidies and have enough home equity, you may be surprised at how affordable solar is today. It’s not your 1980’s solar anymore.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are also other ways to buy solar, such as solar leases and solar power purchase agreements (solar PPAs). These are becoming more common and typically have low money down….but in the long run, you pay out more with a solar lease and a solar PPA than you would if you bought solar. Plus, you’re locked into 15 -20 years of payments.  Don’t get me wrong: Solar leases and solar PPAs still save you money over your regular electric bill. It’s just not as much money if you buy. So if you can swing the home equity loan, buying is most cost effective.

In any case, I don’t know how the person commenting on Treehugger was thanking Ed Begley, jr for Citizenre service, given what the Citizenre website says. So please,don’t wait for Citizenre. If you want to go solar, find a qualified installer in your area now.

Thank you,

Solar Fred

How much can you save with a solar roof?

Profit from your roof space: find local deals on solar, eliminate your power bill, and join the solar revolution.

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31 thoughts on “Solar Fred Warning…again: Citizenre

  1. Corey R Jackson says:

    Can Anyone Offer An Honest Evaluation Of ” POWUR ” ? Thank You

  2. Solar Watchdog says:

    This company shows occasional promise but then falls short by not processing its customers’ orders and not paying its salespeople consistently. They put on a good front, but honesty is not their strongest attribute.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Is that john Rodgers lol

  3. K says:

    They have already installed over 100 systems in Ca and are now heading into other states as we speak. I also heard that one of the competitors help them to install, but drop them (Citizenre) due to them out selling in a certain state. Do not know if that’s true. But it means allot!

  4. MIke Biller says:

    Dan,
    You are right . Money is just the starting point. What I think people are excited about is that after much hard work, the company is moving to bring solar to the masses. The company has proven they can install in several markets and the sales force has proven they can generate customers. I think as the pieces come together it will be a big deal. For the industry , the company and the sales associates. Good luck to them.

  5. Curt says:

    Gosh Fred, you sound very bitter. That’s unfortunate. A lot of the information you’re asking for is proprietary but you probably know that already. How many grassroots startups are you responsible for, and how many were successful? Do you think I’m disappointed that I waited for CitizenRE to get off the ground, since like many people I could never afford solar otherwise.

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Instead of a character attack on Fred, you might consider what appears to be taking place here. Whoever at CitizenRE has all of a sudden been interested in their public image in light of a funding announcement-

      Thus, google’s their company name to check out their buzz, and oh no there’s a “warning” about their company 4th on the list.

      This appears to me to be a bit of attempt of management to put a positive spin on things in light of some good news internally.

      Flat out, the company has done many wrongs. Coming out of the woodwork just to announce funding isn’t a show of effective leadership as much as a call for people to take notice. Well, we noticed. Congratulations on your funding support. Some people with deep pockets believe in your potential. However, you now have a lot of work to do to improve your image in the solar community.

      I wish CitizenRE well in the future, just know that there will always be advocates out there with the consumer’s best interests in tow to keep you in check.

  6. david says:

    Feb 09, 2011 09:12 ET
    Citizenre Signs Development Agreement

    SAN DIEGO, CA–(Marketwire – February 9, 2011) – The Citizenrē Corporation today announced that it has received and executed a funding commitment with Adam Capital, a private investment fund based in Sonoma, CA. Adam Capital has agreed to provide Citizenrē with an initial $20 million in funds, and subsequent funding rounds, over the next 18 months to fund Citizenrē’s goal to install 15 megawatts (MW) in residential solar photovoltaics (PV) systems.

    Citizenrē has been providing homeowners the use of solar electric systems with immediate savings and no out-of-pocket costs throughout California since late 2009. This new agreement with Adam Capital will enable Citizenrē to expand in California and enter other favorable markets throughout the U.S.

    So what do you have to say now everyone, and yes you too Fred and Jeef W.?

    1. Nice that they have money? Does this mean they have experienced NABCEP solar installers? Who? Where? Whose panels are they using? Whose inverters?

      This press release basically says they now have money. Let’s see how they use it. Still have a long way to go to gain back our trust here.

      “When the company launched back in 2006, Citizenrē introduced a solar rental product that was a game changer and breakthrough for residential PV. The company’s vision of “PV for all” captivated over 37,000 customers in two+ years. During the intervening recession, the drop in PV component prices has enabled Citizenrē to deliver on its commitment — bring affordable PV to average homeowners.”

      You never had 37,000 customers. You had 37,000 people who put in their name for a service that you never delivered. You also promised a solar panel factory, which you never built.

      Again, we love solar, but Citizenre has burned the public too many times to be trusted. I would wait for at least a year to see how they work their bugs out. Even after a year, I would get multiple solar leasing/rental quotes and compare their service with companies like Sungevity and Solar City and Sun Run that have been installing quality systems for the last 3 years.

      Sorry, CitizenRe, but just getting financed doesn’t make all of your broken promises forgotten or forgiven.

  7. Frank Knight says:

    Howdy,
    It has been a long time since I have hit the blogs about Citizenre and am happy to say there is some great news!
    After a lot of passion and dedication of those of us who did not give up on the mission to bring renewable energy to the masses we have now got what we need to really make a difference.
    We had a press Release this morning and I am happy to share three of the links where you can read about recent developments:
    http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Citizenre-Signs-Development-Agreement-1392962.htm
    http://newsblaze.com/story/2011020906124600002.mwir/topstory.html
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Citizenre-Signs-Development-iw-1095316263.html?x=0
    We are finally doing what we started out to do even tho’ we had to make many changes.
    Our plan is now even simpler… there is no longer a deposit required and all it takes to get a system is to be a home-owner in one of our service areas, have a home suitable for solar power, and the first month’s rent.
    No credit checks and a fixed rate for 10-years so many citizens can produce their own clean green energy.
    WE will be adding new service territories as time progresses.
    Peace,
    Frank Knight
    P.S. I have literally over 400 blogs to post to that basically wanted not to hear from us until there was some serious action so you may see this same message repeated… I certainly don’t have time to make individual posts right now and will have many hours just copying and re-posting!

  8. Sarge says:

    From what I understood last I heard from my Eco-pal CitizenRE is now able to make installations in CA because they have decided to go with limited outsourcing on equipment for their start up installations. Though still planning to build a proprietary site for their “economy of scale” manufacturing plant, they decided to not continue to be held up by the logistical snags of actually building the plant in the start up phase. If this is true, I think this explanation would satisfy the doubts expressed by the original poster of this article.

    1. Nope. It doesn’t. Until I see them change their web site and stop posing as a national player, they’re still misleading the public. A pilot program is a pilot program, even if true.

      If you must lease, go with tested solar leasing companies like Solar City or Sungevity or other local ones in your area.

  9. A fantastic example of a dood idea – Great guns a blazing – and than poof they are gone. Citizenre was very bad for the inductry. The fact remains solar is expensive and incentives DO make it work. Right now! If the government took away the volatility and the installers remained orhanized and stable – the projects would go so much smoother!

  10. What everyone has talked about is all well documented above in multiple posts, Andrew. You’re probably a representative of Citizenre, and even if you’re not, hope you didn’t get hosed.

    Citizenre, in whatever form it’s in right now doing business is going to have to do a great deal of explaining and action before I will personally ever recommend it to anyone.

    If you need to rent/lease solar panels, I would still recommend going with Solar City, Sungevity, or just about any other company. Why? Because they made a promise and they delivered. Citizenre, on the other hand, has thus far been a bunch of B.S. hype and very, very, little action, wasting consumer’s time and, more importantly, initiative to get solar on their roofs waiting for these jokers to get their act together.

    If you really got solar from Citizenre, Andrew, great. Keep ’em. Hope they were installed well and a good deal. But again, these yahoo marketers are going to have to go a long way before I trust anything they say or do is real.

  11. Andrew says:

    I am not certain what everybody here is talking about . Citizenre just installed a system on my house and there were no problems. The guys were nice and the sales person was great at explaining everything to me so I could understand the agreement. I am going to save money on my bill and I don’t have to buy a system. It is a great deal for me . I am glad I did not listen to the posts out there.

    -Andrew

  12. Joziah Lee says:

    Anyone interested in actually “getting in at the ground level in solar” should look into certification from NABCEP if you shall desire to be a installer. Other “entry level” posistions being made avialable with good future outlooks are solar site assessors – assuming state incentives encourage or even inforce mandatory certified assessments by a certified site assessor. Check out the MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association) for workshops and certification/s that have merrit and will land you a job with a real solar company (not that CitizenRe is not real, though some like to be compensated for their hard work). 3rd generation photovoltaics (which maybe on the back burner in a here and now scenario – but 100% on the tables of the labs of the brightest and most innovative) and state incentives combined with federal incentives make the future of this industry very much a bright one (no pun intended), so yes, get in now, but I would be very cautious about the “hurry up and give us your SS# now-now-now, or you can’t serve us in the future? Definite red flag! Go to school and be an engineer or get certifications for field work that you WILL get paid for.

  13. Craig says:

    I too was very intrigued by the concept a couple years ago and signed up to promote it. But when I got my “intro packet” I had some reservations and decided to hold off becoming a rep but wanted to stay on the list as a potential customer.

    To further the questions of this company, I received a similar letter to the one Mark received. Mine came on 5/17 but also talked about about additional incentives for signing up new CA customers. Then I received this email on 5/18….

    I sent out an email yesterday that was meant for our sales people, our Ecos. Unfortunately it went to the list of our customers. Now I understand why I got so many confused emails back!

    Please ignore the part about the bonus, W9’s and the ACH. That was meant for our sales people.

    This was definitely not the first communication that I wanted with our customers who have been waiting so patiently!

    Many of you were wondering why it had been so long since we communicated. Frankly, we did not have anything of value to share. Our funding did not come through as planned and it has been a challenging economy to raise financing so we have not been able to begin installations until recently.

    We wanted to wait until we had specific information and progress to share. Through a strategic alliance, we can now install solar on 92% of the homes in CA. We are currently only installing in CA, but we are expanding. We don’t have specific time-lines for additional markets, but we will keep you informed as more funding is secured and we continue to expand.

    Our staff and our Ecos have worked for three years without being paid because we are passionate about bringing renewable energy to the masses. This is an unprecedented effort that documents the depth of our commitment and we are now having some success.

    Thanks for your patience and if you any questions (besides when we will be in your market :), please feel free to email me directly at (email address removed by Solar Fred).

    Again, I apologize for the confusion — it won’t happen again.

    If you would like to be removed from the mailing list, please just click the remove button on the bottom.

    Thanks,

    Rob Styler
    President, Powur of Citizenre
    ….
    Was this an actual mistake or is it a subtle way of trying to get the potential customers to jump, sign up to be sales reps and give them their bank info and SSN?

    1. Even if this is a valid excuse, it just goes to show how disorganized and rinky-dink this company is. Do you really want to be dealing with a company like this? Who are their partner installers? What are their qualifications and track record? What are the terms of the new lease/rental agreement? None of these questions have been answered in this letter or anywhere that I can find. So, once again, I urge extreme caution before signing anything or investing any time on this organization. If you want to be a real solar installer or solar salesperson, go get training at Solar Living Institute or Solar Energy International. Both offer online courses as well.

  14. Mark says:

    Here’s a funny thing: I was approached to become a member of their MLM deal two years ago, but it didn’t smell right for some of the reasons mentioned in your article. Today, I got an email (appended below). However, a quick look at the corporate site seems to indicate that it hasn’t been updated since 2008 ?!?

    Attention all Citizenre Ecopreneurs:
    ________________________________________
    Citizenre is Installing Solar and Paying Eco Commissions.
    Dear Eco:
    Things are rolling over here at Citizenre and we want you to be part of it. We are installing solar systems in our pilot city and are about to begin in our second city – plus we have a strategic alliance that enables us to provide installations in much of California.
    Now we need to hear from you. Many Ecos have been waiting to see commissions paid before they re-engaged. That day is now. Are you still on the Team? If the answer is Yes, let us know.
    To confirm that you are still active, we must receive a Direct Deposit Authorization and a signed W-9 form. This is required by the IRS and is simple to send in. Login to your back-office and visit the “Resources” section to find the form and directions (if you forgot your password, click on the link “I forgot my login information” and enter your email address. The system will send you a new password).
    As an alternative, you can simply click on the link below to download the forms immediately:
    [form link deleted by SolarPowerRocks.com]
    Please return these documents immediately. If we don’t receive them in 15 days (by May 24), your position will be flagged as inactive and you will be locked out of the back office until you complete this step. You will not be deleted from the system as long as you act within 180 days. But if you don’t act fast, you could lose commissions.
    Since we can now place PV in much of California, we want to reach California customers immediately. If we do not hear from you in 15 days, your California customers will become available to the first active Eco in your support Team.
    If you re-engage within 180 days, you can still benefit. For each transferred customer who installs solar through Citizenre or our partner, you will receive $100 for originating that customer. Any customers that have not had, or are not in the process of having, a solar system placed on their rooftop can be reclaimed within 180 days if you re-activate.
    If we do not receive your W-9 within 180 days, per our Policies you can be removed permanently from the system and you will receive no compensation from any prior work. We don’t want that to happen, so act now.
    I want to personally thank all of our dedicated Ecos who have stayed with us on our adventure to bring renewable energy to the masses.
    Thanks,

    Rob Styler
    For all questions, please contact us at accounting@citizenre.com

    1. Hi, Mark,

      Thanks for bringing the above to our attention. A few points here:

      1) This is a classic case of high pressure sales, giving people a time limit to sign up or lose. While this is common practice, unfortunately, it does make one suspicious whether this is a phishing scam to get your social security information.

      2) The forms that are to be downloaded and submitted are W-9 forms. Again, this might make sense, but as you noted, the website hasn’t been updated in over a year and there are no press releases or stories on the web saying that they’re back in business or subcontracting with anyone in California.

      3) The company’s phone contact is an answering service. Again, not a good sign. The answering service also answers by “Citizen’s Electric.” Odd, since they’ve been branded as Citizenre or “Renu” for all of these years.

      4) Citizenre.net, where the form was supposed to be downloaded goes to another independent “ecopenueur” landing page…who lists a gmail address as contact info. If they’re truly back in biz, why would that happen? Wouldn’t it all be forwarded to the .com site?

      All of the above is ambiguous at best. I would be VERY. VERY, VERY, cautious in submitting any information to Citizenre at this time, as of May 2010.

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  15. ray says:

    please tell me if its a scam or not a scam business……….anyone out there that might know

    1. Bottom line: At best a waste of time. Since time equals money, scammers. Please don’t even think about promoting them. You’re better off taking some solar classes and working for real companies.

  16. MIke K says:

    I think Citizenre was just ahead of their time . I took a look at them years ago and I have noticed that several companies have sprung up with the same idea. I did a little more research and the house of cards guy who commented above said citizenre would never work then went and did the same thing they were working to do. Either way somebody will fill the space when the time is right. Leasing will be great for taking solar to the average American.

  17. JJ Cinecoe says:

    Hi solar Fred,

    Very true assessment of Powur CitizenRE.
    It appears that SunEdison and some smaller companies in East coast is doing PPA’s on commercial basis but also thought other companies were using home based PPA somewhere in No California?
    I did read Citizenre’s enterpreneur training and their elaborate dealership recruitements and kept copies in 2005-7 but got busy on other businesses.

    Just not sure how they maintain a balance sheet without income? Great plans … no substance.. products??

    I love you candor and balance and agree with above comments and thought I should share my experience with novel PV claims.

    in 2007 I opted to signed up as dealer with DBK Solar and even placed an order and deposit but never heard from them>?

    I just wonder if DBK is still in business? and if they are a scam as claimed by blogers, where can we get fulfilment?

    Thanks for your consideration.
    Regards, JJ Cinecoe

    1. JJ, I have no idea about DBK or which state your talking about. You’d have to check the net or better business bureau for that. Hope you didn’t lose too much in your deposit.

      SunRun and SolarCity and the CT Solar lease program are the main solar ppa and solar lease companies out there right now if you want to lease. I would check out buying first and getting a free quote through us, though. It can’t hurt to get a free quote and see if you can get it financed. Any way you go solar is fine with us, but solar leases and solar PPAs are not as cost effective as buying. They WILL save you money. Don’t get me wrong. Just not as much money if you buy. Think about a car lease and buying a car. Same concept, except you can’t trade in your solar panels until 15 to 20 years. They last 25 to 30, so you’ll still be in the black, but not as much.

  18. Les, that’s great, but I can’t find anything about the new Anaheim program on their website, or the new terms/business model for renting. Right now, the Reserve Your System link gives the same info, that you shouldn’t wait. So I’m confused here by your message. You would think the main corporate site would be updating, but again, all I’ve seen is this message that says exactly what I said above.

  19. Les says:

    As Mark Twain is often quoted as stating “The report of my death is greatly exaggerated” so it is with Citizenre. (For full disclosure, I am an Independnt Distributor associated with Citizenre.) Citizenre has started installations in Anaheim, CA and will continue to install there. The original plans were, in my opionion, overly ambitious, but well-meant. I believe that there was never any attempt to deceive anyone, nor stop anyone from purchasing panels. Even with all the incentives that are now available, there still is upfront money that many people still cannot afford. Also, purchasing a large-ticket item such as solar panels may not make sense to a customer. If purchasing large ticket items is alway the right solution for everyone, then car leases wouldn’t exist. Not everyone wants to purchase a car even if they can afford it. All that Citizenre is doing is offering an alternative. By all means if someone wants to purchase panels, don’t wait. At least in Anaheim, there is a choice.

  20. Tor a.k.a. "Solar Fred" says:

    Thanks, Jeffery. That 2007 article is a very thorough analysis of CitizenRe written by a real solar leader in the industry (Jeffery is the founder of GroSolar.) As readers will see from his article, CitizenRe true believers left a lot of comments. Once can only wonder if those people are still true believers 2 years later without any Citizenre systems in place. Though I can't confirm that the company will never get its act together, there seems to be little reason to hold any hope, and I once again urge people considering solar to move forward with getting a quote from a local NABCEP solar installer.Thanks again for commenting, Jeffery.

  21. Jeffery says:

    I wrote a pretty definitive article about CitizenRE a couple of years ago. Nothing has changed, except that real solar financing that actually puts solar electric panels on your house today, has become available in a few states, with more coming. CitizenRE was and remains an unfulfilled promise at best, a potential scam at worst. The article is here. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2007/02/citizenre-a-house-of-cards-47419 (It was the most read article on Renewable Energy Access for 2007)

    1. DClark says:

      If you guys truly believe it’s a scam then why are you checking an old website.
      I’m a small business owner myself and I know it gets hard trying to update my website every now-and-then. In fact, I completely stopped about 5 years ago and I seem to be getting along fine without it. If your such a “real” journalist, then why haven’t you spoken to anybody in the company? And why haven’t you tried to see for yourself what’s going on instead of sitting behind a lit screen looking at articles that could’ve been written 10 years ago? I myself live in Louisiana and I see lots of Citizenre panels on houses when I drive to the restaurant in the morning. In fact, I’m thinkin of getting some panels myself. And that’s the reason why I’m here looking for anything on the company that might turn me away. But I know a few people that already have panels on their roof and they seem to love it.
      Why don’t you just come out and see for yourself how things are gettin along.

      1. Jordan says:

        Hey Mr. Clark if your interested in getting solar I’m a sales manager for Citizenrē. I’ve been here in Louisiana for two years and it is awesome. Contact me at rethinksolarpower@gmail.com. We can set up a meeting and I can explain all of it.

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