Back in November Big Government reported that renewable energy firm SolarCity was under investigation to determine whether the company inaccurately stated the market value of installing their residential solar panel systems when applying for stimulus funds. Last week it was revealed that two more companies have been subpoenaed by federal investigators for similar charges relating to improper claims on stiumulus money. The Washington Post reports that the financial records of SolarCity, along with SunRun and Sungevity, have been requested by the Treasury Department’s office of the inspector general in order to determine whether more than $500 million in federal grants and tax credits have been claimed falsely.
The money forms part of Obama’s $13 billion “1603 program” designed to incentivized clean-energy developers through cash grants. The three companies in question were by far the largest claimants of funds for residential solar panels, collecting hundred of million of dollars in the past three years. They are being charged with inflating the market costs of installation in order to claim more money back from the federal government who currently stump up the equivalent of a third of the companies’ installations costs. Firms usually install solar panels for approximately $5 per watt of energy and make comfortable profits, yet some firms were charging as much as $7-$8 per watt and claiming costs back from the stimulus program. Jonathan Bass, a spokesman for SolarCity, argues that the company estimates are fair and that the company's costs were often at or below the recommended amount the Treasury Department suggested at the time. Both SunRun and Sungevity have declined to comment on the investigations.
Lachlan Markay on The Heritage’s The Foundry blog reports that all three of the investigated companies boast investors with significant ties to the Obama White House. SolarCity chariman Elon Musk is prominent Obama supporter and SolarCity company officials and investigators are said to have donated an estimated $579,000 to Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Similarly, Sungevity’s main financial backer Tom Steyer is an “aggressive activist for more federal environmental regulation and taxpayer backing for green energy companies” as well as a major Obama campaign donor.