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Leviton abandoning solar-leasing program

Leviton exec Jay Sherman, right, with spokesman David

Leviton exec Jay Sherman, right, with spokesman David Edison Sloane, said the leasing program didn’t gain expected “traction.” (Aug. 3, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Leviton Manufacturing, the Melville electric-products maker that recently recruited the great-grandson of Thomas Edison to herald its entry into the solar leasing business, has abruptly changed course.

The reason for discontinuing solar-leasing operations, according to a company official: The market wasn't as large as anticipated.

"We've been monitoring how much traction we've been able to develop, and there was just not as much traction as we might have believed there to be regarding leasing programs," said Jay Sherman, director of marketing.

He said Leviton, one of Long Island's largest companies, with an estimated $1 billion in annual sales, will continue to investigate solar-product and other sustainable-energy markets.

The company formally entered the market in Southern California, New York City, Rockland and Westchester counties at the start of the year. It contracted with David Edison Sloane, Edison's great-grandson and a college English professor, to speak for the program.

Leviton was not immediately able to enter the Long Island market because Long Island Power Authority rules don't allow residential customers to transfer their product rebates to third-party leasing companies. "The challenge of leasing on Long Island clearly needed to be addressed," Sherman said.

William Poulin, a former BP Solar executive who led Leviton's short-lived solar-leasing division, has decided to leave the company, Sherman said.

The leasing program was a relatively new model for Leviton, which has tried it once before with electric car chargers installed in residences. Sherman said the company will approach solar and renewable-energy markets via traditional channels such as retail.

Sherman said the company would "stand behind" systems already installed in "dozens" of homes on both coasts.

Leviton, a 106-year-old privately held and family-run company, had developed a solar system that it said could be installed in homes in just a day. It contracted with an outside company, SunRun, to handle the leasing, and with local installers to place the systems on residential roofs.

Local installers of customer-purchased systems had been supportive of Leviton's entry, but were concerned that leasing programs could devour LIPA's $25-million annual solar budget.

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