3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) - Debra Dehner says she struggles month after month just to pay her utility bill, particularly during the summer.

"My monthly bills are like $319 plus. I have to pay $100 to solar. That's $419 a month," she said.

Dehner says $419 a month is outrageous considering she used to only pay $80 before she contracted with a company called the Sunnova Energy Corporation and went solar.

[RELATED: Anthem couple has problems selling home with solar]

In an internet commercial, Sunnova claims they can turn your home into an energy-saving powerhouse by simply going solar.

Debra Dehner describes her billing issue to 3 On Your Side

Debra Dehner describes her billing issue to 3 On Your Side.

And that's exactly what Dehner says a Sunnova salesman told her four years ago when he knocked on her door.

"He promised my electric bills would be lower," she said.

[RELATED: Going solar? Questions you should ask first]

The chance to lower her $80 utility bill sounded great. So, the Fountain Hills woman agreed to lease solar panels for 25 years and have 18 of the panels installed on her roof.

Leasing the panels cost Dehner about $102 a month, but she says she thought she'd see extra savings with a near zero utility bill. But, Dehner says instead of going down, her electric bill is in the hundreds of dollars.

"I absolutely hate it. It's the worst mistake I ever made is to get into solar," Dehner said.

[RELATED: Wittmann homeowner stuck with high solar bills]

Dehner says she can no longer keep up with the leasing payments and the mysteriously high electric bills. She is in a financial crisis.

"Now I’m behind as far as making the payments," Dehner said.

As a result, Sunnova sent Dehner a letter saying because she's delinquent in her monthly payments, the company wants to have the entire balance paid "now." The total was around $18,000.

So, she contacted 3 On Your Side.

"Get me out of the contract and give me the money back that I put into it," Dehner said.

Debra Dehner expresses frustration over her bill

Debra Dehner expresses frustration over her bill.

This past year, 3 On Your Side successfully negotiated three different Valley families out of their solar contracts and even had their solar panels removed, all because their solar bills were higher instead of lower.

[RELATED: Update: 3 On Your Side gets solar panels removed for Avondale family]

However, Sunnova wasn't as eager. The company agreed to look into Dehner's issue at our request and sent eventually sent us this email saying, "We have been in communication with Ms. Dehner and have come to a resolution on the matter that is satisfactory to her requests. As a result, Ms. Dehner no longer requires being released from her solar contract."

But Dehner says that can't be further from the truth and she's not satisfied at all with Sunnova's resolution which is to reduce her leasing payments from $102 to $66 starting in January.

Dehner tells 3 On Your Side she appreciates our involvement, but she won't be happy until the contract is cancelled and the panels removed.

"I would not recommend solar to a dog," Dehner said.


Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

3 On Your Side Investigative Producer

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(17) comments


We got solar before the crazy response by APS... it really DOES make a GOOD difference in our bill.


Not buying that she had $80 before solar. No one has $80 electric bills in phoenix unless they live in a shoe box. Second, why would she lease solar if she had such low bills. Third, there is no mention of the utility here, my guess is APS since they go out of their way to squash solar.


Yeah SRP and APS charge a demand fee for solar customers only. It's between $50-$500 per month on top your usage bill. It's discrimination really. Without that fee, solar would be extremely cost effective. But with that huge demand fee it's marginally effective. Also, SRP doesn't let you get the benefits of choosing your time of use plan if you have solar, obviously causing an increase in the bill. They are greedy and have no oversight (SRP and APS). They blame the duck curve but seriously less than 2% of homes have solar so don't cry about the duck curve.


And they charge this fee in order to squash private solar systems. Has anyone else noticed that they also want to sock you a lot if you want to use THEIR solar, which of course you do not since it still comes from Palo Verde


I could be wrong but the first thing I disagree with is that she leased her panels. That alone is part of the problem. Your paying for the right to have panels plus the solar service, of course it's going to be higher. Also the new deal she has is not really a deal I feel. They may have just increased the time of her lease to lower the bill. If she owned the panels, it would be cheaper. I don't know how the other parts of solar work, but common sense tells me that actually owning the solar panels would help a little bit.

Rimrock Res

No mention of how many Kilo Watts this solar array was capable of converting. I have a 3.8 kilo watt system on my 2,800 sq foot home and Spring and Fall (with clear sunny skies, we can draw up to 500 Kilo Watts per month and use only 300 KWs = tax & service fees + about $9.00 per month. We bank the un-used hours to APS and use them up during the Summer using our AC. Most my elec bill has been only $80 one -4 months out of the year. We do not have a swimming pool. This woman must be running a lot of stuff or leaving her windows open while running her heat & AC....


Never Lease Solar, No Gain. Plus remember APS charges extra for using Solar to make up for their lost revenue.


I would like to announce that my APS monthly bill is between $17 and $19 all of which is taxes and fees for generating the bill. This month marks my one year anniversary with solar and I received a check for $112 a credit for generating more electricity than I used which took care of some of those monthly bills. Thanks to the honesty in sales from Sunrun Solar rep, Steve, that sold me the contract. This contract is transferable to the next owner upon sale of my home which includes the home warranty for 20 yrs from date of purchase of contract. After 20 yrs, the panels are yours for $1.00!
Now I can afford to eat a d pay for my presciptions on a fixed income![smile]
Sun City retiree


Ginlau - You must be a rep for Sunrun. Sure the solar panels are transferable IF and ONLY IF the person purchasing your home agrees to take on the payments AND meets the qualifications of taking on the cost, otherwise you must pony up the cash and get the difference from the sucker who buys your home.


She barely has enough solar panels to run her pool pump. Also there is no way she could have had $80 a month before the solar since most pool pumps pull about $50 a month - that leave $30 for everything else.


Gee, sounded like how Obama was telling us about how ObamaCare would save each household an average of $2,500 in medical cost! Liberals and DemoRATS are nothing more than snake oil salesman! The promise the world, but delivers nothing! When will people wake up and see the ruse? Global Warming is a today's re-branded Climate Change! Since, Al Gore couldn't fool us in the 90's liberals have to re-brand it as something new and different! Same old snake oil in different bottle!


I understand she made an error in signing up for a $102 a month contract when her bill was only $80 but why did her electric bill go up so much after installing the solar panels?


Hilarious. You are complaining about an $80/mo bill so signed a contract for a $100/mo bill. Real smart.


IKR?? I would sell my soul for an $80 electric bill.


Are people really this dense and gullible when it comes to making financial decisions?? Once again, our schools have failed to educate people in basic life skills.


Something tells me this lady did not go to school. It's sad some people are this dumb, but something tells me there's more to this whole story because $80 a month electricity is unreal. Thank you az family for the half effort news.


I agree. A house that size with a pool would likely have $300+ srp bills in the summer. Maybe $80 in the winter? Definitely not a well described news story. Also, there weren't many panels installed. Definitely not enough to produce 100% of the power needs.

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