The Office of Energy Resources (OER) has announced that the Idaho State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program has started and Idahoans can now apply to receive rebates for certain appliances they buy. The money for the rebate program comes from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus package.
The program is similar to the "Cash for Clunkers" program last year, which allowed people to trade in older, less fuel efficient cars and receive up to $4,500 in tax rebates toward the purchase of a new car. For the cash for appliances program, citizens are able to replace appliances - dishwashers, water heaters, dryers, and more - with newer appliances that are Energy Star certified and use less energy than older models. Citizens can receive rebate money for up to five different appliance upgrades. The state has $1.2 million for the program and once the money is gone, the state will end the program, unlike “Cash for Clunkers,” which received a second appropriation due to its popularity.
To receive a rebate, Idaho citizens must purchase an Energy Star appliance as quickly as possible and save the receipt of that purchase. After buying the appliance, people can log on to the state's website for the program and fill out the application form. After printing out the form, people will need to mail in the form, along with a copy of the receipt, and a utility bill which bears an Idaho address for verification purposes, to OER for processing. If the rebate application is granted, applicants will receive a pre-paid VISA debit card in the amount of the rebate in the mail 6-8 weeks later.
The program is designed not only to reduce power bills and ease stress on the electric grid, it will also help spur the local economy, as is noted by OER director Paul Kjellander.
"Idahoans investing in new energy-efficient appliances will spark retail sales activity,” Kjellander said. “These consumers will also take an important step toward lowering their energy bills.”
With the main objective of the program being to remove less-efficient appliances from the electrical grid, how does the state ensure that the older appliances are not simply removed and sold at yard sales? The short answer: it's not something the state can verify. In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, Kjellander said that OER didn't want to "throw money" at a verification program to force people to recycle. He said that many of the vendors from which people can purchase new appliances offer pick up of old appliances. Upon pick up, vendors then take the old appliances to the junkyard for recycling. Kjellander said that his office will, however, be in contact with retailers to gather information on how many appliances were recycled during the program.
For OER, Kjellander said, the program is not about forcing people to recycle old appliances, but rather is about educating citizens about the benefits of efficient appliances. He said the he realizes that many will use an older fridge for a "beer or soda fridge," but hopes when people see increased electric bills due to both fridges are in use, they will better understand the correlation between energy use and their wallets.
"We want them not to be green for the sake of being green, we want them to be green for the sake of the greenbacks," said Kjellander.
States were given some leeway in building parameters for the program, noted Kjellander. Some states offered larger incentives to lure citizens to buy, but Kjellander said that he didn't want to see a quick shot in the arm for retailers, but rather a "slow steady burn." The state also chose to send the rebates out in the form of the pre-paid cards, which are cheaper than sending out checks and can save state officials time. He said that by not using checks, which are sometimes not cashed due to death or other "weird" circumstances, the state "be done" with the money and the program when all the cards are sent out and all funds are expended.
To date, $125,175 in rebates had been spoken for by Idaho residents, which leaves the state with $1,129,478 in funds left to send out. You can keep track of how much money is left by going here and clicking "Reserve Your Rebate."