Solar Panel Scam Plays Out in Union County

On July 29, 2010 Jonathan Williams of the law firm DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick claimed that the installation of solar panels in Morris County delivered a 25% savings off the cost of electricity:

He lied then but, apparently for Union County, it wasn’t  a big enough lie so he upped it to 52% as reported today in the Star Ledger:

The arrangement will save taxpayers money, officials from the authority said. Over the course of 15 years — the length of the contract with Tioga — the participating entities will be able to save an estimated average of 52 percent on the electricity purchased through the program, according to Jonathan Williams, the general counsel to the improvement authority. That savings is limited to the amount of power produced by the solar panels.

He did have the decency to insert that last line this time but still failed to mention exactly what portion of the total energy would come from solar (10%?).

The underlying reason for this project is the money that DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick and PMK/BSG Group will make off of it: $481,656 and $293,699 respectively so far.  However, this excessive borrowing has given Union County a negative outlook on their bonds and this issue specifically is likely to default as the SREC market collapses in New Jersey leaving county taxpayers to pick up a major portion of the cost of this scam.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Simply put, taxpayers & ratepayers are paying $21.5 million, plus interest, to get a fake $4.7 million dollar in savings. $15 million coming from UCIA will be repaid by Tioga through tax credits and the sale of SREC’s. Both methods are paid for by taxpayers and ratepayers. The 6.5 million being put up by Tioga will be repaid by the same methods, i.e., taxpayers and ratepayers.

    The other thing that almost makes me laugh is that DeCotiis has other clients it pushed to become involved in this same scheme which, in essence, means that those entities represented by DeCotiis will become competitors with other DeCotiis clients in the SREC market.

    Reply

  2. Posted by G. Albritton on June 19, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Sure that that isn’t just a simple typo on the percentage? Reverse the digits on 25% and you have 52%. Not unlikely for the S-L to get this wrong like so much else they report.

    Still can’t understand though how DeCotiis could represent the UCIA in selling this idiocy to the County without a conflict since the same firm represents the County in so many other matters. A lawyer is supposed to represent a client zealously, so it would seem that when wearing the UCIA hat DeCotiis might feel justified in spewing out the nonsense about the claimed savings and safety of the solar program at that hearing. But at the same time, based upon its retention by the County otherwise, DeCotiis was also effectively wearing its Union County as client hat, and should have been “zealously” counseling the Freeholders about the clear dangers that the program represented to its interests and those of the County taxpayers. Don’t see how this could be avoided or waived. But then half a million in fees can go a long way in helping a law firm to resolve apparent conflicts of interest like this.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Mark Boehme on June 20, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Kudos to John for correctly seeing the SREC market collapsing. Here is an article from Saturday’s Star-Ledger:

    New Jersey has seen a swift solar expansion in large part because of state rules that force power companies to either produce solar power or buy it on a market where companies like Avidan sell “SRECs,” credits representing energy.

    “Will the SREC values come down? Yes, they will come down,” said Jamie Hahn, managing director of Solis Partners, a Manasquan company that designs solar panel systems for commercial clients. “It’s like taking the training wheels off a new industry.”

    http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2011/04/nj_solar_energy_booms_frantic.html

    Reply

  4. […] . This was in Sussex County last Wednesday but Union County was similarly gulled into their own version of this Solar Panel fiasco. […]

    Reply

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