Month: October 2020

Designee Registration Portal Training – Friday Oct 23

Section 6.9.1 of the IPA’s Revised Long-Term Plan created a new requirement for Approved Vendor Designees (i.e., third-party entities working with Approved Vendors that have direct interaction with end-use customers) to register with the Adjustable Block Program. Designees may register under one or more of the following roles: Disclosure Form Designee, Community Solar Subscriber Agent, Installer, Marketing or Sales Organization.

The Program Administrator has created a new Designee registration functionality that is expected to be released through the ABP portal on Monday, October 26, 2020. A webinar to introduce this new functionality and provide training on how to use it will take place on Friday, October 23, 2020 at 1:00 PM Central Standard Time.

Please use the following link to register for the webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYofu2oqjkvGtHYwGVr0wQku6H-4O1QsydL

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. If you are not able to attend this training webinar, it will be recorded and posted to the ABP website for easy access and review.

Please note that all Designees, that work within the ABP, must complete the designee registration no later than Thursday, December 10, 2020, which is 45 days from the release date of this functionality.

Revised DG Marketing Guidelines Reminder – Grace Period Ends October 31st

The revised Adjustable Block Program Distributed Generation Marketing Guidelines were published on September 16, 2020. These revised guidelines apply to all distributed generation sales and marketing activity from that date forward. Approved Vendors and those operating on their behalf are expected to be familiar with all changes and adhere to all requirements outlined in the revised guidelines.

As a reminder, there is a grace period of 45 calendar days from September 16, 2020 before disciplinary action is taken for violations of new, non-emergency requirements found in the revised guidelines. This grace period will end on October 31, 2020. This grace period only applies to items that have changed from the original DG Marketing Guidelines to the revised DG Marketing Guidelines.

Emergency restrictions against door-to-door marketing enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic remain in effect, as described in the IPA’s recent update on October 7, 2020. As updates to this prohibition are being made on an ongoing basis, Approved Vendors and their Designees should monitor the Updates section of the ABP website for any changes.

Updated COVID-19-Related Marketing Guidelines – October 7, 2020

On March 20, 2020, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its expected impacts in Illinois, the Illinois Power Agency adopted the following emergency amendment to its Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program Marketing Guidelines:

In-person marketing and solicitation: Given the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 virus, in-person marketing or solicitation of photovoltaic system sales, installations, or financing; in-person marketing or solicitation of community solar subscriptions; or similar in-person solar marketing or solicitation activity are prohibited.

Clarifications to this prohibition were offered on May 19, 2020, along with additional guidance and updates on June 4, 2020, June 30, 2020, and August 5, 2020.

This update confirms that the IPA’s prohibition of door-to-door sales and solicitation remains in place while offering additional clarifications regarding the scope of this prohibition.

Regarding the basis for the IPA’s door-to-door sales prohibition, the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate (the percentage of positive tests across total tests given) remains in the range of 3.5%.  That positivity rate remains well above its lowest points from June and has showed little decline across the summer months, and the daily totals for both confirmed cases and fatalities in Illinois remain a significant public health concern.  As Illinois moves into cooler fall weather with more time spent indoors, efforts should be made to protect against a recurrent spike in COVID-19 transmission through curbing unnecessary—and especially unwanted—person-to-person contact.

The IPA believes that transactions benefitting from public funding should operate in the public interest.  Thus, in the interest of protecting public health, door-to-door sales remains a prohibited sales channel under solar incentive programs administered by the IPA (the Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program) and entities found violating this prohibition may be suspended from program participation.

CLARIFICATIONS

A reiteration of prior-offered clarification is provided below:

Passive forms of in-person marketing and solicitation – such as tabling at retail stores or events, or door-to-door distribution of marketing materials such as advertising flyers – are no longer prohibited.  While these activities could increase the likelihood of unnecessary person-to-person interactions, such an increase would be small or already agreed-to through participation in existing commercial channels.  Any permitted door-to-door distribution of marketing materials must consist only of distribution of materials (with no notification—such as door knocking or ringing of a doorbell—allowed as part of that distribution) and not include any other marketing or solicitation activities, including in-person sales or solicitation, until such time as the potential customer has received and read those materials and initiated an entirely separate follow-up conversation.

Additionally, in-person meetings with prospective or existing customers (such as a follow-up to an online or phone discussion) are not prohibited so long as expressly agreed to by that customer.  The IPA strongly discourages any high-pressure tactics used to secure such meetings, however, and requests that all Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors strongly consider whether virtual meetings, e-signatures, or other telecommunication practices can instead be utilized.  Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors must respect the wishes of existing or prospective customers who do not wish to meet in-person.

In addition to this prior-issued guidance the IPA offers the following additional clarifications:

  • This prohibition applies both to business-to-business sales in addition to sales to Illinois residents.
  • This prohibition applies to any size of system or subscription for photovoltaic systems benefitting from incentive funding through program participation.
  • While the term “door-to-door” is used in describing this prohibition, this prohibition applies to any attempts to initiate person-to-person contact without that person’s or business’s prior acquiescence, unless part of the tabling exception outlined above. Thus, approaching an individual on their property, on the street, or otherwise without their prior express consent to such person-to-person contact may constitute a violation.
  • Guidance offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (“DCEO”) regarding the permissibility of door-to-door sales during Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan addresses only whether such practices would run afoul of the Restore Illinois Plan, and does not address the requirements applicable to qualifying for state-administered incentive funding under the IPA’s programs.
  • Likewise, the removal of prohibitions on door-to-door solicitations by local governments does not impact program permissibility of door-to-door marketing for transactions funded through the IPA’s solar incentive programs in those areas.

For the foregoing reasons and those offered in its prior updates, the Agency believes this would be an inappropriate time to start permitting in-person interactions initiated without a customer, homeowner, or business owner’s express permission.  This prohibition will remain in effect until lifted by the IPA through a formal announcement, although the IPA will endeavor to continue providing updates.  Additionally, prior-issued guidance regarding best practices remains in effect.

Should you have questions about whether specific practices are permitted, please contact IPA Chief Legal Counsel Brian Granahan at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.