On the Demise of NPR - First Installment

If it is still available, take a gander at Jacob Goldstein's Planet Money story on why solar power has gotten so cheap: Jacob Goldstein's Article on NPR website

Here is my response to his story, which I attempted to post on the NPR website, but which was deleted three times before I threw in the towel:

"A couple of quick observations:

1. When a homeowner leases a system from SolarCity or anyone else, the installer gets the federal rebate, not the homeowner. Mr. Goldstein failed to mention that, and the report implied a linkage between federal subsidies and Mr. O’Hagan’s “simple calculation,” a linkage which isn't actually there.

2. Snap-in panels may not meet local code requirements. There are also other factors such as requirements for circuit breaker panels backfed by solar, the necessity re-roof prior to solar panel installation, and a lot more. So the installation will likely still take from two days to two weeks in many (if not most?) places around the country, not the four-hour install time described in the report. Mr. Goldstein failed to mention any of this.

3. SolarCity leasing is not “creative financing” unless ownership transfers to the lessor at the end of the lease (SolarCity leases don’t do this); otherwise it is just paying someone other than your local utility for electricity. Very different, and this is probably the most egregious omission that was made. There ARE many creative financing options (green loans, zero down loans, credit union unsecured loans, home equity loans, variable interest rate and term loans for solar, county HERO programs, etc.) where the homeowner ends up owning the panels outright with significant ROI on the tail end, AND where the homeowner receives the federal tax rebate and any local incentives. Any of these could be considered “creative financing.” But leasing is not one of these options, as there is no ROI at all, just a discount on electricity, and the lessor gets all the ROI. Once again, Mr. Goldstein failed to mention this.

4. There is also the option to install solar panels yourself. It’s really not that difficult and will save a homeowner over 50% in total project costs. The PV system we installed ourselves will be fully paid off in less than four years. After that, it's all gravy. In the meantime, we pay about what a SolarCity lease would have cost...but we will own the system in less than four years! Leases really make no sense at all...none.

5. According to BBB complaints, Yelp reviews and responsible reporting, SolarCity is one of the most unethical companies currently in business. They have hundreds of complaints about their sales tactics. Mr. Goldstein failed to mention any of this as well.

All-in-all, this report missed a lot of important facts, and painted leasing (and SolarCity) in a much more favorable light than the facts support. To me it felt a lot more like an advertisement than professional reporting."

Why was this post deleted, do you think? I am contacting the NPR Ombudsman to find out. You can read NPR's "Community Rules" here: NPR Community Rules

Can you see anything in my post that violates these rules? I certainly can't, and it would be easy to provide copious links to support what I'm saying. In essence, though, Goldstein didn't provide much (accurate) insight into why solar has grown so quickly, and instead quite transparently promoted a company, product and process that will ultimately leave a bad taste in the mouth of most consumers.

Stay tuned....

6/7/2015 Update: Still nothing cogent from NPR. Here's the canned response from the Ombudsman: "Unfortunately, we will neither explicitly state a reason why a comment has been removed nor will we notify each individual personally about the comment moderation process." Apparently the only possible explanation is a generic one that my comment "didn't expand the conversation." Really? That's interesting considering the dozens of non-substantive comments that didn't get deleted, and the relative substance of my own. Is NPR really becoming a stooge and shill for corporations, as with so many other media outlets...? This is really a sad turn of events for NPR I must stay. My wife and I have been frequent supporters of our local KPBS, including at the Producer's Club level when we could afford it, and I have supported NPR stations all around the country wherever I have lived. I'm thinking with experiences like this one, that support is probably coming to an end.


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