After Tesla increased the price of a Solar Roof project by more than $30,000, the customers explain why they have filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract

Tesla CEO Elon Musk introducing Powerwall Tech in 2015
Tesla CEO Elon Musk introducing the Powerwall in 2015.

  • A Pennsylvania lawsuit said Tesla was in breach of its contract after raising a Solar Roof price.
  • The suit, filed by Philip Dahlin and Mary Arndtsen, said it would seek federal class-action status.
  • The increase “was a significant disappointment,” Dahlin told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than half a year after Philip Dahlin and Mary Arndtsen signed a contract with Tesla to install a Solar Roof on their home in New Hope, Pennsylvania, the couple received a message from the company.

Tesla said their price would now be $78,352.66, up from the $46,084.80 price they’d agreed upon.

“Our budget was based on the contract that we had, so it was not something that we had prepared for,” Dahlin told Insider this week via phone.

Dahlin and Arndsten in late April filed a lawsuit against Tesla in US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The suit said the tech giant was in breach of its contract. It also said the company violated consumer protection acts covering home improvement and trade practices.

The lawsuit was filed amid a growing chorus of customers speaking up about Tesla unilaterally increasing their prices – some by as much as 70% – after they’d signed contracts for Solar Roofs and energy-storage batteries called Powerwalls.

An article in the Uniform Commercial Code allows buyers and sellers to modify agreements after they’re signed, said D. A. Jeremy Telman, a contracts professor at Oklahoma City University School of Law, after reviewing the Pennsylvania complaint and a lightly redacted Tesla contract.

“However, both parties must consent to the changes. That seems here not to have been the case,” Telman said.

Tesla was issued a summons on May 3, according to the Pennsylvania court. The company had not filed a response as of Saturday afternoon. An email from Insider wasn’t returned.

Elon Musk, chief executive, addressed customer concerns during the company’s Q1 earnings call in late April, saying, “We did find that we basically made some significant mistakes in assessment of difficulty of certain roofs.”

The lawsuit seeks class-action status

A Tesla Representative Explaining the Powerwall.JPG
A Tesla rep explains the Powerwall technology.

The Pennsylvania couple’s complaint said it would seek class-action status.

Their attorney, Peter Muhic, of LeVan Muhic Stapleton, said he’d heard from “numerous” homeowners in situations similar to Dahlin and Arndtsen. He declined to give a specific number.

“They advertise a very unique product that they claim is much better than other competing products,” Muhic told Insider on Thursday. “And we believe that they need to honor their contracts, and they have to perform as they had promised and agreed.”

Muhic would have to file a motion to have the case formally certified as a class action. The complaint said there are more than 100 potential class members who had signed contracts totalling more than $5 million.

A copy of a Tesla Solar Roof contact filed alongside the complaint included an arbitration agreement between the parties. That clause could be a roadblock for the case to gain class-action status, said Gregory Klass, associate dean and professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

“Tesla’s arbitration clause almost certainly forestalls this class action under current Supreme Court precedent,” he said on Friday, citing a 2011 case, AT&T v. Concepcion.

In the legal complaint, Muhic wrote that the arbitration clause would be struck down as invalid under Pennsylvania law, in part because of the way it had been formatted on the page. He wrote that the clause also “does not contain a separate line for each party to indicate assent.”

Connecticut homeowners say Tesla also raised their price

A Solar Roof and Tesla Powerwall in 2016.JPG
A Solar Roof and Tesla Powerwall.

In Weston, Connecticut, Jay and Robin Fortin signed a contract in January to install a Solar Roof on their 1955 colonial home. They agreed on a price of about $62,000 in their contract, Jay Fortin told Insider on Friday. His wife signed the contract.

When a tech came to study their home, the price jumped up about $6,600, because Tesla would have to change the type of wood beneath their shingles, he said. Then, in April, the couple received a message from Tesla, letting them know the price had gone up to about $91,000.

“I’m not going to pay the new price,” Fortin said on Friday. “We can’t. The whole thing made sense for us because we needed a new roof anyway, and we wanted backup power.”

He later added: “I wish we hadn’t gotten involved with the whole thing, tell you the truth.”

Fortin said he reached out to Muhic after learning of the complaint. Fortin hasn’t taken legal action, but said he’d consider joining a class-action lawsuit.

In Pennsylvania, Dahlin signed the contract with Tesla for a total price of $46,919.20 on September 17, 2020, according to a copy filed with the court. The couple paid a $100 deposit. After subtracting the deposit and an energy rebate, they would owe $46,084.80 after the installation, according to the contract.

The couple refinanced their home, where they’ve lived since 2006, to pay for the project. The contract said the roof would be installed within 180 days.

“We were pretty excited about the prospects,” said Dahlin, who works in sustainability. “Also, just generating our own energy to charge the Tesla we already had, the car.”

During the following 180 days, the couple heard little from Tesla.

On March 24, the couple received an email from Tesla, saying: “We have increased the price of Solar Roof and have added adjustments for individual roof complexity.”

On April 23, they learned that the price had been increased to $78,352.66, according to their complaint.

Said Dahlin, “And then when we did get the email, it was a significant disappointment, obviously.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Exxon chases after a $2 trillion opportunity to capture and bury carbon emissions

Exxon Baton Rouge refinery
An Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Happy Friday and welcome to Insider Energy, a weekly energy newsletter brought to you by Insider.  

Here’s what you need to know:

I’m hosting a live energy roundtable on Monday with execs from Shell, Facebook, and other big firms, you know, in case CERAWeek wasn’t enough. 

It should be great! We’ll discuss whether oil giants still deserve their bad reputations, how companies can generate returns as they pivot to renewables, and what tech breakthroughs we need to clean up the grid. And it’s just 30 minutes. You can sign up here

Anyway, this week was another week. 

We got a few more details on Exxon’s strategy during the company’s investor day Wednesday (though not much of what it announced is new). And the fallout from the Texas storm – now expected to be the most expensive weather event in the state’s history – continues to spread. 


Exxon Mobil's Fife Ethylene Plant in Cowdenbeath, Scotland
Exxon Mobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant in Cowdenbeath, Scotland

Exxon is chasing what it calls a $2 trillion carbon-capture opportunity

Once skeptical of betting big on carbon-capture technology, Exxon says it’s ready to go all-in.

During an investor presentation Wednesday, Darren Woods said advances in the technology and a “growing market need” have created a unique opportunity for Exxon.

Call and response: The reality is that Exxon had to do something. For months now, investors and activists have been calling on the company to address its enormous carbon footprint at a faster clip. 

  • The investors Engine No. 1 and D.E. Shaw, in addition to a coalition of shareholders with $2.5 trillion under management, are among the groups pushing for change.

The easy choice: Capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground is far easier for a company like Exxon than building out renewable energy capabilities, as its European competitors are doing. 

  • The company has been doing CCS for decades. And the main use of captured CO2 is to extract more oil out of the ground, anyway. 
  • The real change is that Exxon is now organizing all of its carbon capture projects – there are 20 in the pipeline, many of which were already under construction before the recent announcements – in a new business called Low Carbon Solutions

Wall Street is happy: After freefalling in 2020, Exxon’s stock is up almost 50% from the start of the year, and many of the top Wall Street banks favor the company. 

  • “XOM’s newly formed Low Carbon Solutions business helps mitigate energy transition uncertainty while also offering new attractive growth options for the company,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note this week. 
  • Wall Street firms cite not just Exxon’s strategy to cut emissions but pared back capital spending and a low breakeven price for oil. 

Yet challenges remain: Some investors say Exxon’s plan to cut emissions and change up its board doesn’t go far enough. Experts have also raised questions about the economics of carbon capture technology. 

  • “The business as it stands today is underpinned by government support, and this can be shaky over the long term,” Peter McNally, an energy expert at Third Bridge Group, said in a comment this week. 

Meanwhile, morale has collapsed: Exxon had to slash its operations budget last year to stay afloat, which resulted in job cuts that several employees described as haphazard. Morale inside the company has suffered as a result. 

  • Executives were not forthright with employees about the toll the downturn would take on its workforce and, at times, came across as insensitive when they did communicate about job cuts, current and former employees said.
  • You can read more about that here

Power lines are seen on February 19, 2021 in Texas City, Texas
Power lines in Texas City, Texas

The people and companies paying for Texas’s grid disaster 

Texas’s energy industry faces a reckoning after its grid nearly collapsed last month.

The latest: Power has been restored, and enviable 70-degree weather is forecast for the weekend, but Texans still face flooded homes and other damage. And they’re not the only ones paying the price … 

  • The oldest and largest power cooperative in the state, Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, is filing for bankruptcy protection. It was hit with $2.1 billion in bills after the storm.
  • Bill Magness, CEO of Texas’s grid operator ERCOT, was fired by his board this week. Several board members have also resigned. 
  • DeAnn Walker, chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which oversees ERCOT, resigned this week.
  • Griddy, the company behind most of the big bills many Texans got stuck with, was effectively shut down and now faces a state lawsuit alleging it misled customers. On that note … 

Griddy’s rise and fall: The Texas startup had big plans to disrupt the state’s $21 billion electricity market. Then they backfired. 

  • In our story this week, we lay out the company’s business model, why it failed, and what happens next. 

Sunrun solar installation
Sunrun installers put panels on a home in Sunnyvale, California

Meanwhile, the Texas disaster is set to propel Sunrun to new heights

Following the widespread blackouts in California, back in 2019, the solar giant Sunrun – which sells rooftop panels and home batteries – began shifting its pitch to customers: Go solar not just to access clean energy but to power through blackouts. 

  • The company even adopted the slogan “Power through.” 

Sunrun sees a massive opportunity in the disruption of centralized power. Blackouts lead to a surge in customer interest, especially for backup batteries. 

A Texas boost: So it’s no surprise that, as we reported this week, the state’s recent power crisis is set to drive sales at Sunrun

  • Traffic on its website shot up 350% in Texas during the storm. 
  • “Accelerating extreme weather events will continue to drive consumers to choose solar and batteries,” Lynn Jurich, the company’s CEO, said in a call with investors.

A big year: 2021 was already on track to be a massive year for the rooftop solar industry, analysts said. Now it’s all but guaranteed. 

Read more: The Texas blackouts are fueling a massive market for solar energy – and Sunrun is set to cash in


Rivian Amazon delivery van

Amazon has $2 billion to experiment with all kinds of different climate tech

A world plagued by a pandemic is one that demands lots and lots of packages. And unfortunately, most of them are shipped by planes, trucks, and boats that cough up tons of greenhouse gases. 

That’s a big problem for Amazon, which stares down a pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 across the company. So it’s calling on climate-tech startups for help. 

This week: We talked to the head of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund – a $2 billion pot of venture capital that it can dish out to startups.

  • The company is funding startups developing technologies that will help Amazon cut its emissions. 
  • Matt Peterson laid out which technologies it’s after and why Amazon, like so many companies, is so bullish on green hydrogen. 

That’s it! Have a great weekend. 

– Benji 

Read the original article on Business Insider

What a Democratic Senate can and can’t do for US energy policy

Biden solar panels
President-elect Joe Biden walks past solar panels at the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, New Hampshire

Welcome to Insider Energy, a weekly energy newsletter brought to you by Business Insider. 

Here’s what you need to know:

I thought we were done with horrible weeks for a while, but 2021 is already showing us that it, too, can surprise. 

For Democrats and clean-energy advocates, there was, however, some good news: Democrats won both runoff elections in Georgia to regain control of the Senate. That’s a big deal for pretty much every issue, from healthcare to voting rights to energy.

Though there’s a hefty caveat: The Democratic majority is so slim that any major (and controversial) bills – including those related to climate change – are unlikely to find traction. 

Let’s start there. 


US President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a press conference at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. - US President-elect Joe Biden expressed frustration on November 16, 2020 about Donald Trump's refusal so far to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying "more people may die" without immediate coordination on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

What’s on the table now that Democrats have control of the Senate

Who wants one stressful election when you can have two? 

The news: Democrats won both runoff elections in Georgia, giving them 50 of the Senate’s 100 seats. The tiebreaking vote will fall to incoming Vice President Kamala Harris – in other words, Dems regained control. 

The significance: President-elect Joe Biden won’t, as previously expected, operate within a divided government. That gives him a lot more latitude to achieve his ambitious climate agenda.

Big buts: It may be obvious, but a 50-50 split in the Senate gives Democrats a very narrow majority. That will be a problem for any sweeping climate bills, especially if they appear to constrict fossil fuels

  • Not all Democrats may vote in favor of big climate bills. 
  • Plus, don’t forget about the filibuster. It’s unlikely to go away anytime soon, and it essentially means that climate-specific legislation could require 60 votes.
  • Fun fact! Filibuster comes from the Dutch word for pirate. “It came to mean a legislator who was ‘pirating’ parliamentary proceedings,” NPR reports

All eyes on Joe: Not that Joe. I mean Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He’s “the most powerful person in US energy policy right now,” said Ed Crooks, Vice-Chairman of Americas at Wood Mackenzie. 


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Area 1002
A bird research camp in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Arctic drilling anyone? Anyone? 

The high-profile fight to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling appears set for a rather anticlimactic ending.

The news: After a three-year push by the Trump administration to allow oil companies to drill in ANWR – considered to be the largest remaining swath of wilderness, and likely home to a huge amount of oil – leases for acreage in the refuge finally went up for sale. But there were just three bidders … one of which was the state of Alaska. 

  • Oh, and half of the available leases had no takers at all. 
  • You may remember that a big reason for opening up the refuge was the revenue these leases could raise. Now it appears they could net as little as $15 million

No surprises: The unsuccessful lease sale wasn’t exactly surprising. We reported on the lack of interest back in August


Sunrun

Clean-energy stocks surged last year, and they’re soaring in 2021. Wall Street analysts offer up their top bets.

Amid a global pandemic and a historic oil market collapse, clean-energy stocks casually soared. The ECO index, a benchmark for clean energy, grew last year by a stunning 203%, according to Raymond James. 

  • For comparison, the S&P 500 grew by 16%, while the E&P Index (including companies that find and extract oil and gas) fell by 38%, per Raymond James. 

This year: It’s already looking up, thanks to a Democratic takeover of the Senate and a late-2020 relief bill that included all kinds of goodies for clean energy. This year it’s already up about 20%. (The S&P is up 3%). 

For investors: Analysts are predicting another good year for the sector and sharing their top picks. 


Oil rig in field
The worst for oil markets is likely over, Morgan Stanley said in a note Tuesday.

Price check: Crude hits an 11-month high due to a ‘perfect storm’ of events

Brent today: The benchmark is at about $55 per barrel, as of Friday midday. 

  • The last time we saw prices that high was February – before the coronavirus scourge was declared a pandemic.

Why the rally? Analysts at Rystad Energy said it’s due to a “perfect storm” of events: 

  1. Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, agreed to voluntarily cut crude production starting in February by 1 million barrels. 
  2. Storage tanks are finally starting to empty around the world, a signal that demand is ticking up. 
  3. Democrats regained control of the Senate, giving way to a potentially massive economic stimulus in the months ahead
  4. And, of course, the dispersal of COVID-19 vaccines. 

But: A full recovery of oil demand is still a long way off. A bunch of industry experts shared what to expect in the year ahead for the oil market


That’s it! Have a great weekend. 

– Benji

Ps. I went cross-country skiing on New Year’s Day and discovered it’s not as boring as skiing on a flat surface sounds. I also discovered that it’s a great workout because I woke up cocooned by sore muscles.  

Benji skiing
Read the original article on Business Insider