There was a piece this morning on NPR about Citizenre the solar company in Massachusetts that wants to take solar to the masses. The big picture sounds logical: the challenge with solar is that there's not enough volume and further that it requires a big upfront expenditure by homeowners. If a well financed company like Citizenre can take on that upfront expenditure and lease or rent the equipment to homeowners then both company and citizen can share in the upside with a locked in electricity rate through solar as other electricity rates soar over time. Sounds good. I was first alerted to this company a few weeks back by an old old friend who's signing up to be a seller Citizenre residential rental agreements. One thing that raised questions for me was when my friend said, "they have obtained loans of up to $650 million to build the manufacturing plant. They avoided venture capital due to the high cost."
I have no direct knowledge of Citizenre and I hope they're for real and I hope they get their financing and I hope they can fulfill their promises to consumers. But both the NPR piece and my friend's comment certainly raised questions. The NPR piece questioned whether they have actually raised the money and whether they will therefore be able to manufacture the product. The NPR piece quoted a company spokesperson as saying that they couldn't disclose information about financing and other plans at this time because it was proprietary and confidential. Perhaps . . . but combine that with the comment my friend reported and I start to wonder. Whenever anyone says essentially, "we couldn't get smart money and therefore we had to take dumb money" (because that's really what they're saying with their VC comment) you have to wonder . . . Of course, you don't raise VC money to build a new plant--that would be bank debt and other sorts of money but why can't you say who's financing you with such a large amount? That seems to me atypical. If anyone has knowledge that contradicts these slight suspicions, I'd love to hear it because I hope this thing can work. At very least, after the NPR piece, Citizenre needs to fire its PR agent and get a new one. Kristen?