Homeowner fights for PG&E solar panel rebate


A rebate offer to encourage homeowners to install solar panels is shrinking quickly which means there are some disappointed homeowners out there. It is officially called the California Solar Initiative. Since 2007, the program has been mailing out rebate checks worth thousands of dollars. So, when one homeowner felt shortchanged, she called 7 On Your Side and that's when we went to work.

Gina Maren's combined gas and electricity bill in March came out to under $21.

"It's working good. Yeah, my meter goes backwards of course, which is nice," she tells ABC7.

Gina, of Campbell, is one of many Californians who have received a rebate under the California Solar Initiative.

"We've seen a huge success of the program where we've been able to get over 250 megawatts of solar installed in the PG&E service territory," says PG&E spokesman Andrew Yip.

Yip says the amount of the rebate check gets smaller as costs to install solar declines over time.

"We started off at $2.50 a watt and today, we're at 35 cents a watt because of the amount of participation we've been able to receive," he says.

The rebate is locked in once the homeowner submits all the forms and documentation. Gina thought her rebate had been locked in at $1.10 a watt. Since she installed a 4,800-watt system, she was counting on a hefty rebate.

"Oh, gosh, I could put it on my mortgage. Any little bit helps because I only work part time," she says.

PG&E said it never received her documentation, but Gina has the receipt from the post office as proof of mailing, and copies of the forms she has are dated February 10 of 2010.

"It's really not my fault that the ball was dropped," she says.

The company she purchased her solar panel from tried to assist her with the rebate, but PG&E refused to give her the higher rebate. So, she called 7 on your side. We called PG&E.

"After doing research and speaking to our customer service folks, we found out that the customer did have a receipt saying that she had sent the documents in the mail. Somehow we never received those documents," Monica Tell with PG&E said.

Gina has since received an additional rebate of $2,700, bringing her total rebate to nearly $5,300.

"Since 7 On Your Side got involved, PG&E has been wonderful," Gina says. "Thank you 7 On Your Side. I really appreciate it."

The California Solar Initiative rebates will be available until the money runs out or 2016, whichever comes first.

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