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The facts on Arcadia Power’s community solar offer

Did you receive a mailing from Arcadia Power, touting community solar?  Have you seen Arcadia’s advertisements online?

One thing you should know: At this time, Arcadia’s offer is not a community solar offer.

Consumers from across Illinois are asking CUB lots of questions about Arcadia’s offer.  We’ll try to break it down below.

Here’s an example of an Arcadia mailer you may have received. Click on the image for the full letter.

What is “community solar”?
Thanks to a 2016 law, the Future Energy Jobs Act, ComEd and Ameren customers can now “go solar” without actually installing solar panels on their property, through a program called community solar. Under the program, you can purchase a portion of the electricity produced by a solar installation—called a community solar garden—and in return, receive credits on your electric bill.

Because this is a new and developing program in Illinois, it’s taking time to get community solar up-and-running. It’s important to know that currently there are no community solar gardens serving residential customers. So even though Arcadia’s advertising tells potential customers that they have “unclaimed community solar savings,” Arcadia is not offering a true community solar plan at this time. Arcadia is signing people up in advance for when community solar gardens go live in 2020.

So if it’s not community solar, what exactly is the company’s offer?
Arcadia is an energy brokerage company—a for-profit business that offers to manage your electricity supply needs—that has now added community solar to its portfolio.

To participate in Arcadia’s offer, you must first sign up for the company’s brokerage service. To do that, you must have an online account with your utility (ComEd or Ameren) and enter your login info (username and password) into Arcadia’s online system.

Once you’ve signed up with Arcadia, you will stop receiving bills from your regular utility.  Instead, your bills will come from Arcadia.  The company will be purchasing power for you, and, according to Arcadia, it will buy that electricity in a way that saves you money while procuring Renewable Energy Certificates on your behalf. (Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs—pronounced “rex”—are an accepted certification of renewable energy’s environmental value.)

Once community solar becomes available, Arcadia promises to then incorporate community solar packages into its procurement. But that is not expected to happen immediately. On the plus side, Arcadia doesn’t require a credit check or charge exit fees. Also, the company promises to save customers 10 percent over what they would have paid with the regulated utility, ComEd or Ameren.

Is the deal any good?
Although CUB has not yet spoken with anyone who has signed up, the consumer group has had discussions with Arcadia and learned details of its offer.

Questions about Arcadia’s offer: Answers: 
What are the sign-up requirements? *Must have online account credentials with your utility, and enter those credentials into Arcadia’s website.

*To add community solar to your Arcadia account, you must sign up for automatic bill-pay.

 

 

Is there a credit check? No
How will I be billed? Arcadia’s bills will replace your utility’s bills.  When you are with Arcadia, you will no longer receive a bill from your electric utility (ComEd or Ameren).
How much does Arcadia say I will save? 10%
What’s the contract term? None
Is there an “exit fee” for leaving the contract early? None


Possible pros:

  • There’s no credit check to sign up.
  • There’s no fee for exiting the program.
  • There’s guaranteed 10 percent savings.

Possible cons: 

  • You need to have an online account with your electric utility and turn over those account credentials to Arcadia.
  • You will no longer receive a bill from your electric utility after you sign up—your electricity will be billed by Arcadia.
  • To qualify for Arcadia’s community solar offer, you must sign up for automatic payment.
  • Arcadia is vague about how much of your energy will be coming from community solar and which projects that energy will be coming from.
  • Arcadia promises 10% savings over your utility’s energy supply price, but other community solar offers may promise more.

Like we said before: Currently there are no community solar gardens up and running, so Arcadia is signing people up in advance for when those installations go live over the next year.

Can I sign up for Arcadia’s offer and ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program?

Hourly Pricing is a ComEd program that allows consumers to pay a rate for electricity that can change by the hour. It’s been a money-saver for most participants, saving them 15 percent, on average, on the supply portion of their bills. Important: If you are an Hourly Pricing customer and you sign up for Arcadia’s community solar offer, you will be removed from Hourly Pricing. Under the rules of that program, you will then have to stay off Hourly Pricing for a year. The same is probably true for Power Smart Pricing, a similar Ameren program, so be careful.

What does CUB think about the Arcadia offer?
Community solar allows more Illinois consumers to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy, so CUB is pleased to see these offers beginning to hit the market. But we have some concerns about Arcadia’s offer.

  • Despite the fact that Arcadia’s ads tout “community solar,” customers who sign up are actually not signing up for community solar to start. Instead, they’re signing up to have their electric supply procured by Arcadia.
  • The requirement that customers must enter their ComEd or Ameren username and passwords to sign up is a significant barrier.
  • While we like the fact that Arcadia is not requiring a credit check or an exit fee, we are concerned about the lack of transparency in this product.

You are not required to sign up for Arcadia’s offer. We expect other community solar offers to hit the market soon, and we look forward to analyzing those projects for their benefits.

Have you signed up for Arcadia’s community solar program?  Let us know about your experience!