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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fridge rebate deal worth $250


by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A new version of the federal government's Cash for Clunkers program will involve only old refrigerators in Hawai'i.

GNS photo

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"Next to water heaters, refrigerators have the biggest impact on energy consumption in the home."

Ted Peck | state energy administrator Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

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Cash for Clunkers version 2.0 the energy-efficient appliance rebate program is gradually getting rolled out around the country to distribute $300 million in federal stimulus money to consumers buying a variety of large appliances.

In Hawai'i, the program will have a limited scope, applying only to refrigerator purchases made once the program begins, which is estimated to be in April.

Local consumers statewide who replace and recycle a refrigerator with a qualified Energy Star model for residential use will be eligible for a $250 rebate under the program customized by the state.

The rebate amount is five times that of a long-running rebate on energy-efficient refrigerator purchases on O'ahu and Kaua'i funded by local utilities.

Several other details of the federal program such as the process for recycling old refrigerators, which refrigerators qualify and how consumers may apply for rebates will be announced closer to when the program begins.

Some local consumers may be surprised or disappointed that more appliances weren't included in the program. However, smaller rebates for a variety of appliances are presently available under a long-running state energy-efficiency program, though participation varies by county.

The federal rebate program in Hawai'i was crafted to make a big impact on energy use while keeping the program easy to operate, according to state energy administrator Ted Peck with the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

"Next to water heaters, refrigerators have the biggest impact on energy consumption in the home," he said.

About $1.1 million from the federal program is available for distribution to Hawai'i consumers, or enough money for rebates on 4,450 refrigerator purchases.

The program's parameters in Hawai'i are unique because the federal Department of Energy, which announced the appliance stimulus project in July, instructed each state to shape their own plans in terms of rebate levels, qualifying appliances and other details.

The setup differed from the original Cash for Clunkers program that provided rebates for buying more fuel efficient automobiles under standards set by the federal government.

Compared with other states, Hawai'i is on the extreme side in terms of what appliances qualify, but isn't as restrictive as some other states imposing other requirements.

According to the Department of Energy, only one other state North Dakota limited its program to only one appliance, also refrigerators.

Two states, Oregon and Washington, had only two appliances in their programs.

Most states included at least four appliances. The state with the most eligible appliances was Wisconsin with 17, including six types of water heaters.

Rebate values vary widely by state. Some states also added restrictions on who can qualify, such as low-income residents.

For instance, Oregon's program offers a 70 percent discount off gas furnaces or air source heat pumps priced up to $2,000, or a maximum rebate of $1,400, but is limited to resident homeowners earning no more than 60 percent of the state median income.

In Delaware, all local consumers are eligible and can receive up to two rebates that range from $25 on room air conditioners to $200 on water heaters.

The program in Kansas requires that the appliance being replaced must be at least 10 years old, and limits the rebates that range from $200 for a room air conditioner to $800 for a clothes washer to residents earning no more than 75 percent of the state median income.

Only a few states have launched their rebate programs to date. Most begin in March or April.

In Hawai'i, DBEDT elected to have two companies that administer existing state appliance rebate programs to manage the federal program after approval from the agency and the Public Utilities Commission.

On O'ahu, Maui, Moloka'i, Lāna'i and the Big Island, the program will be operated by contractor SAIC, or Science Applications International Corp. On Kaua'i, the nonprofit owner of the electric utility there, Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative, will run the program.

About 10 percent of the $1.2 million federal grant, or $123,600, may be spent to administer the program.

Hawai'i received $1.2 million based on its percentage of the national population. California is receiving the most money, $35.3 million.

DBEDT projects that the environmental benefit from the program will be 1.6 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 1,322 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions saved annually. The agency also expects 13 jobs will be created because of the program.

In addition to the federal appliance rebate, the state has received federal stimulus funding to enhance rebates for solar water heaters and to add more money to the state appliance rebate program that's funded by utility rate payers.

Under the state rebate program, rebate amounts, county participation and purchase dates vary.

For instance, a $40 to $70 rebate for high-efficiency water heaters is presently available on O'ahu, Maui and the Big Island for major public utility customers.

Rebates ranging from $40 to $110 on high-efficiency ceiling fans, clothes washers, dishwashers, air conditioners and refrigerators are available only on O'ahu to Hawaiian Electric customers. The refrigerator rebate is $50.

On Kaua'i, public utility customers are eligible for $50 rebates on clothes washers bought from May to June, and on dishwashers bought from August to September. Kaua'i's $50 rebate on refrigerators typically running from February to March was suspended because of the federal program.