2,250 people deplete appliance rebate pool in 40 hours
By Ashley Hopkins
Nearly 2,250 Miami-Dade residents depleted $500,000 worth of residential appliance rebates in 40 hours last month — allowing recipients to buy energy-efficient refrigerators and clothes washers with federal funds.
Given that success, in upcoming months county sustainability officials hope to offer $1 million worth of rebates to area businesses.
The residential appliance rebates were part of the county's $12.5 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, funded under the 2009 federal stimulus plan.
The program was designed to cut energy consumption and increase energy savings by encouraging residents to replace inefficient appliances with greener options. Last month nearly 2,250 residents received $500,000 worth of federal rebates to buy Energy Star refrigerators and clothes washers.
According to information from Energy Star — a joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy designed to promote energy-efficient products and practices — qualified refrigerators use 20% less energy than non-qualified models, cutting energy bills an average of $165 over an appliance's lifespan. Qualified clothes washers use about 37% less energy and 50% less water than standard models.
Refrigerators typically cost $900 to $1,000, while washers run around $500, said Maggie Fernandez, sustainability program manager for outreach and public affairs for the county's Office of Sustainability. To buy them, residents got $200 rebates for refrigerators, $150 for clothes washers and $350 for both.
"People want to save money and they want to keep their energy costs low," Ms. Fernandez said. "If they receive a rebate they're more likely to purchase [an appliance] that's going to save them money."
While all rebates were issued within 40 hours of hitting the county's website, it's uncertain whether the Office of Sustainability will keep getting federal funding for green projects. While the office has been working to continue its Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, Ms. Fernandez said "the news is grim."
"It's been difficult," she said. "With what's going on in the federal government, we don't expect to receive more funds for this program.… There is just no money for these types of programs."
While financing remains tight, Ms. Fernandez said the office hopes to launch a rebate program for area businesses.
The county terminated its $1.5 million Renovation for Energy Efficiency Loan program in July due to a lack of interest. While the program was designed to provide businesses with loans for energy retrofits, after 10 months and zero loans issued the county pulled the program's plug.
To use the remaining funds, Ms. Fernandez said the Office of Sustainability intends to offer $1 million in rebates to companies through the county's green businesses certification program.
The office would meet with businesses applying for certification to determine which commercial Energy Star appliances would give them "the most bang for their buck." Businesses would get partial rebates depending on what they buy.
"We really envision helping out our area small businesses," Ms. Fernandez said.
While the program is still being planned, Ms. Fernandez said the Office of Sustainability hopes to offer business rebates in upcoming months.
Details: http://www.energystar.gov/, http://www.miamidade.gov/greenprint.
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