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Common Energy: CUB’s evaluation of a new community solar offer

This is an evaluation of Common Energy’s community solar offering. (If you are not already familiar with community solar, we recommend reading our Introduction to Community Solar first.)

How will signing up for the Common Energy community solar offer affect my electric bill?

To participate in Common Energy’s offer, you must first connect your utility and billing information. To do that, you must have an online account with your utility (ComEd or Ameren) and enter your login info (username and password) into Common Energy’s online system. Once you’ve signed up with Common Energy, your utility bill will be redirected to Common Energy. Instead of the utility emailing you a bill, Common Energy will send you a monthly statement.

Common Energy will look at your energy usage history to determine your subscription size, measured in kilowatts (kW). Each month your subscription will produce solar energy, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Once the community solar project you are assigned to is completed, your monthly Common Energy statement will include the community solar bill credits produced by your subscription. Common Energy gives you a 10% discount on these bill credits compared to the standard utility supply cost. That’s where the savings come in. The total amount you save monthly will vary as the solar production of your subscription varies.

What about alternative suppliers?

If you are currently enrolled with an alternative supplier, this could jeopardize your community solar savings. CUB has heard that some alternative suppliers will not credit you for your community solar subscription at the same rate as you are being charged for electricity. Be sure to cancel with your supplier when you sign up for community solar.

What does CUB think about this offer?

Community solar allows more Illinois consumers to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy, and CUB is pleased to see these offers hit the market. However, we think that requiring customers to turn their utility account credentials over to Common Energy will be a barrier for customers who don’t have online accounts. Additionally, Common Energy promises 10% savings over your utility’s energy supply price, but other community solar companies are offering 20% savings. Visit www.SolarInTheCommunity.com to see CUB’s analysis of other deals available in Illinois.

This chart summarizes key points about the Common Energy deal:

Does the company offer savings? Yes. Common Energy offers 10% off the utility default supply rate for the community solar bill credits you receive.
Is there a credit check when I sign up? Yes, you authorize Common Energy to perform a credit check and to share your credit information with their financiers.
What is the contract term? 1 year, with automatic renewal every year for 30 years, until
you choose to cancel.
Is there an “exit fee” for leaving the contract early? There is no cancellation fee, but you must provide 90 days
notice.
What are my billing options? Common Energy’s statements will replace your utility bills. They allow for automatic payments from a checking account, or automatic credit card payments. Credit card payments are assessed a 2.9% processing fee each month.
Bonuses available as of 10/23/2020 Customers who enroll in automatic checking account payments will receive a one-time $25 credit towards their account.

When will my subscription go live? When will I start to see credits on my utility bill?

This depends on when the community solar garden you are assigned to is completed. The Community Solar Standard Disclosure Form you receive from Common Energy includes the month they expect your subscription to go live in the “Subscription Specifications” section. Once you sign up you can also check your customer portal for updates on your project.

What happens if I move?

If you move within your current utility territory you can take your community solar subscription with you. If you move outside of the utility territory, you can cancel with no penalty. If you need to cancel you must give Common Energy 90 days’ written notice. During that period Common Energy will still bill you for the solar produced, and you will still receive bill credits if your account is still active.

How do I sign up?

To enroll in Common Energy’s community solar program, visit Common Energy’s website. See all community solar offers available to you at Solar In The Community.

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