Ellison sues solar companies for lying to Minnesotans about benefits

The companies "misrepresented the cost savings and other benefits" of solar panels for homes, Ellison's office said.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

Attorney General Keith Ellison is suing several solar panel companies for lying about the benefits of solar panels in their sales to Minnesotans.

Ellison’s office last week sued four solar panel companies based in Utah for selling expensive solar panels to Minnesota citizens through “deceptive and fraudulent practices,” according to a press release from Ellison’s office.

The companies involved “misrepresented the cost savings and other benefits” of solar panels for homes, the press release states.

Brio Energy LLC, Bello Solar Energy, Avolta Power, and Sunny Solar Utah LLC, among other executives and lenders, broke several state laws against consumer fraud, says the lawsuit, which was filed in Hennepin County District Court.

Company representatives told consumers that they would “automatically receive 26% of their panels’ cost back from the government” as an incentive for green energy, Ellison states in the lawsuit. The solar panels cost anywhere from $20,000 to over $55,000.

These salespeople also falsely informed consumers that they would not have to pay electricity bills once the solar panels were installed.

Ellison called this a “shameful scam” from “bad actors.”

“I’m suing these companies because they’ve taken advantage of Minnesotans’ good intentions to save some money for their families and create a cleaner environment for everyone,” Ellison stated.

When consumers tried to get out of sales after being tricked into signing contracts and loan agreements, they were intimidated with lawsuits and thousands of dollars in cancellation fees, Ellison said.

Ellison’s lawsuit also highlights the “misleading and high-pressure” sales tactics used by salespeople to urge consumers to “purchase panels right away.” Representatives from the companies insisted that consumers quit “relying on the grid” and buy solar panels immediately, leading several Minnesotans to take out 20-year loans.

Brio trained salespeople on tactics to use when an elderly person responded to the prospect of loans with, “I’m going to die soon,” a press release from the AG’s office points out.

Ellison asserts in the lawsuit that Brio used Xcel Energy’s logo in its advertisements to consumers, leading them to believe their employees partnered with Xcel Energy. Brio called its employees “energy consultants” or “energy educators” instead of salespeople, Ellison said.

Ellison encourages Minnesotans to “carefully research the costs and benefits of residential solar panels” before signing any paperwork from companies that may be scamming consumers.

Ellison’s office began to look into these companies after receiving dozens of complaints from Minnesotans; these same companies have hundreds of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau as well.

“My job as Attorney General is to protect Minnesotans from wrongdoing, abuse, and scams,” Ellison said in a press release.

Meanwhile, in 2020 and 2021, Ellison relentlessly enforced the governor’s COVID-19 lockdown orders and sued several small business owners who kept their establishments open, resulting in one restaurant owner being sent to jail.

Several Republicans are vying for the GOP endorsement to challenge Ellison in the midterms, including Tad Jude, Doug Wardlow and Jim Schultz.