This is an evaluation of US Solar’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 US Solar community solar offer affect my electric bill?
US Solar 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 electric bill will be reduced by the community solar bill credits your subscription produces. You will also pay a second monthly bill to US Solar. Even though you are now receiving two bills, you will still save money overall.
On your utility bill you will see a credit for your community solar subscription. US Solar will bill you for the energy generated by your subscription, with a 17% or 20% discount applied, depending on the billing option you select. 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 support renewable energy, and CUB is pleased to see more offers hit the market.
IMPORTANT NOTE: US Solar’s offer has similar terms and savings to other community solar offers available in Illinois. There is one detail in the contract that stood out to us: a section that’s applicable if you stop making payments without cancelling your subscription, and therefore default on your account.
In the case of default with US Solar, you could be on the hook for up to $500 if they are unable to find a replacement subscriber to take over your subscription. If you choose to sign up with US Solar and at any point are no longer interested in the subscription, make sure to cancel, because the cancellation fee is much lower than the potential fee for default. CUB has not seen a similar section in any other community solar contracts.
We recommend comparing multiple offers and understanding all the terms before signing up for community solar. Always read your contract thoroughly.
This chart summarizes key points about the US Solar deal:
|Does the company offer savings?||Yes. US Solar offers 17% or 20% off the utility default supply rate for the community solar bill credits you receive, depending on the billing option you select.|
|Is there a credit check when I sign up?||Yes, US Solar performs a soft credit check, but it will not impact your credit score.|
|What is the contract term?||20 years. However, you may end the contract at any time. US Solar requires 90 days’ notice of cancellation.|
|Is there an “exit fee” for leaving the contract early?||Yes, there is a $150 exit fee if you choose to cancel. This is waived if you move out of the utility territory or become ineligible. (See note above about the money you could owe if you default on your payments).|
|What are my billing options?||US Solar only offers automatic payments. Customers who select Automatic Clearing House (ACH) payments will save 20% on the energy generated by their subscriptions, while customers on automatic debit or credit card payments will save 17%.|
|Bonuses available as of 10/23/2020||$200 sign up bonus and additional $200 bonuses with the US Solar Referral Program|
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 to which you are assigned is completed. If you are an Ameren electric customer, your subscription will go live this winter. If you are a ComEd electric customer, your subscription will go live next summer. The Community Solar Standard Disclosure Form you receive from US Solar 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 assign your subscription to someone else. (That person must first properly enroll in the community solar program, including reviewing all of the applicable IPA Disclosure forms.) You also can cancel with no penalty by providing proof of your move. If you are moving you must give US Solar 90 days’ written notice. During that period the community solar provider 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?
Have you signed up for a community solar program? Let us know about your experience!