Zenernet, a fast growing solar installation company, with offices in Arizona, Colorado, California, Florida, Illinois, and several other states, has closed its doors. Here is what you need to know.
“I’m ashamed that I was ever part of this organization.” That’s the self-described former VP of Operations for Zenernet, writing on Glassdoor on October 29th, 2022, just over a week after the solar company quietly closed its doors, laid off staff, and abandoned customers in the middle of projects.
Rumors began circulating at the end of October that Zenernet, a nationwide solar installer, had gone out of business. Although we can’t find any record of Zenernet filing for bankruptcy, it seems this nationwide solar company has finally succumbed to its ongoing struggles and doesn’t have the money or manpower to make good on its promises to customers. And there are a lot of customers.
The one thing Zenernet was really good at was getting new clients to sign contracts. Even after a growing number of customers reported massive delays, a frustrating lack of communication, and serious oversights with projects in late 2020 and early 2021, Zenernet continued to sign up new clients and put even more projects in the pipeline.
What it did with all those deposits, we don’t know, but it looks unlikely that customers will see their cash back anytime soon. And for customers with improperly installed solar equipment or other incomplete projects, chances are they’ll need to turn elsewhere to get their rooftop solar over the finishing line.
One of our top choices for home solar, Freedom Solar, works in many of the same cities and states as Zenernet. There are also plenty of hardworking, reliable, longstanding smaller solar installation companies to choose from in most places in the U.S.
What went wrong for Zenernet?
In short, from its beginnings in 2017, Zenernet overpromised, oversold, and underdelivered. Former employees report a corporate culture of greed and deception, stemming all the way from the top, thanks to CEO JP Gerken. Former installers and salespeople with the company report how ‘yes men’ were given perks, while anyone standing up for customers or other employees faced penalties or even dismissal.
When Leaf Score talked to Zenernet in July 2022, the then Head of Marketing, Mike Stanton, told us they were deliberating slowing growth in new markets to focus on getting current projects complete. There would be a company restructuring to streamline operations and ensure better training for aftersales staff, and a greater push to onboard experienced solar installers instead of relying on third-party crews with little to no track record. Stanton acknowledged Zenernet was experiencing growing pains but was adamant that it would make amends and correct course.
That never happened. Instead, Zenernet seems to have doubled down on signing up customers it would never be able to satisfy, possibly even after the writing was on the wall for those in upper management.
Indeed, behind the scenes in July, the company allegedly fired several key people as part of that restructuring, according to one former employee writing on Glassdoor. That employee, an Installation Manager in Cal Nev Ari, NV, says they attended a July meeting where they were told they had job security. Two weeks later, though, the employee notes that there were further layoffs, including two field managers and in-house installation crews.
More employees were allegedly let go in early September. Then, the former employee writes, the remaining staff was told in an October 19th meeting that Zenernet was ceasing operations. This, after having just been promised bonuses and told their employment was secure. As with Pink Energy, this kind of corporate behavior may lead to a class action lawsuit by former employees of Zenernet.
Zenernet operated across the U.S., including in California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and at least eight other states. So far, there’s no indication of investigations into Zenernet by the Attorneys General in any of these states, unlike with Pink Energy Solar.
What can Zenernet customers do now?
As far as we can tell, Zenernet hasn’t contacted customers directly to let them know it has gone out of business. One customer already frustrated with Zenernet reached out to us at Leaf Score to let us know that Zenernet had folded. He’d found out about the closure through MassPower, the local installer working with Zenernet on his home solar project.
Per emails between MassPower and this customer, “Zenernet has in fact gone out of business. We are owed a lot of money by them and are limited on the ability to close these projects out without receiving money owed to us by them.” To its credit, MassPower appears to be doing what it can to help customers affected by Zenernet’s business practices.
For other Zenernet customers, the path to closure is less clear. Given that the company boasted about taking a ‘radically honest’ approach to business, the lack of communication and transparency from Zenernet is especially stark. It’s too early to tell if Zenernet will file for bankruptcy or if customers or employees will launch a class action against the company. Even if there is a lawsuit, it could take years for customers to see any of their money back, and compensation isn’t guaranteed.
Any customers with a grievance against Zenernet should consider filing a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection online at www.attorneygeneral.gov. Customers can also email the Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For customers with faulty installations carried out by Zenernet, there may be an opportunity to access help via a manufacturer’s warranty or through the contracted local installer. Before doing any work on the system, it’s best to check with the manufacturer and installer, however, so as not to inadvertently void any warranties.
For customers whose installation was partially completed by an in-house Zenernet crew, the best bet is to find a reputable local installer willing and able to finish the job. Customers can also contact their loan provider, if they have one, to ask about a grace period while the situation is remedied.
We reached out to the CEO of Zenernet, JP Gerken, but received no response by deadline.