Wired staffer Tim McDonnell looks behind the marketing lingo and into the fine print of residential solar leasing deals to understand what happens to the Renewable Energy Credits captured through the home's use of solar power.
What it comes down to is that to fund the low-cost or free leasing of the solar equipment, the solar provider sells the energy to the residential customer for less and sells the RECs to the utilities that need the credits to comply with state-mandated clean energy requirements. McDonnell writes:
By selling the RECs instead of keeping them for yourself, you could just be helping the utility meet a goal it was already mandated to meet—thus helping excuse it from building more solar capacity itself. In other words, your direct net contribution to reducing greenhouse gas pollution is nil.