Nonprofit Files Lawsuit Against SunEdison Over Donations


Troubled renewable energy company SunEdison is facing yet another lawsuit. On April 22, a day after SunEdison announced its bankruptcy filing, nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives filed a claim in Alameda County Superior Court seeking roughly $2 million in unfulfilled donations from SunEdison’s charitable organization.

According to Erica Mackie, GRID Alternatives co-founder and CEO, the SunEdison Foundation made a two-year commitment to GRID Alternatives in February 2015 that called for cash and in-kind solar module donations totaling $5 million.

The committed donations were aimed at supporting Realizing an Inclusive Solar Economy (RISE), which GRID Alternatives describes as “a national workforce development initiative to increase solar industry diversity and connect workers in underserved communities to solar industry jobs,” in addition to a Women in Solar initiative.

GRID Alternatives claims that SunEdison did not meet its two latest donation deadlines and, to date, has provided “just over half” of the $5 million of in-kind equipment and cash.

“GRID is filing this claim to request that the remainder of the commitment is fulfilled, so that we can continue to serve our communities with these important initiatives,” says Mackie.

Nonetheless, she emphasizes that SunEdison is a valued partner.

“SunEdison’s philanthropic donations have enabled thousands of Americans to reap solar energy’s benefits through lower utility bills, reduced emissions and good jobs,” states Mackie. “Everyone at SunEdison, from its CEO to countless staffers throughout the company, have helped support our work toward a clean energy transition that includes everyone. We are grateful for their dedication to our mission, and we empathize with anyone affected by the company’s bankruptcy filing.”

In an emailed statement, SunEdison spokesperson Ben Harborne did not specifically address the lawsuit, but he wrote, “SunEdison and GRID Alternatives have collaborated to train more than 2,800 people, primarily women and people from underserved communities, for a well-paying career in solar. SunEdison deeply values our collaboration with GRID Alternatives, and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

Mackie says that although the SunEdison Foundation is the largest financial backer of the RISE and Women in Solar initiatives, the nonprofit is “financially secure” and determined to keep the initiatives up and running – no matter what happens with the lawsuit.

“If the foundation’s remaining commitments are not met, we will work with existing and potential philanthropic supporters to identify new funding to ensure that individuals in underserved communities are provided access to solar training and jobs,” she concludes.

GRID Alternatives’ lawsuit is just the latest legal problem for SunEdison, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. For example, Vivint Solar announced plans in March to sue SunEdison over a failed acquisition deal, and SunEdison’s own yieldco TerraForm Global filed a separate lawsuit against its parent company earlier this month.

On Friday, SunEdison announced that the bankruptcy court approved first-day motions to ensure the company can continue to operate, as well as granted interim approval for previously announced debtor-in-possession financing from a consortium.

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