MA Appliance Exchange Fiasco

Yesterday, like thousands of others, I wasted much time in a fruitless effort to log into the state’s web site for the appliance rebate program.   Of course the telephone option did not work either.   This to me is just another example of poor government planning and execution.  As someone who has been in the systems work force for many years, there is no excuse the state can present that would excuse them from such incompetence.

3 replies on “MA Appliance Exchange Fiasco”

  1. I escaped the aggravation because we couldn’t find a refrigerator that we wanted on the list — the MassSave standard (25% more efficient than federal minimum) isn’t much higher than the Energy Star standard (20% more efficient than federal minimum), but the difference is enough to eliminate a lot of options.

  2. Information distributed by DOER on Thursday afternoon (the program opened on Thursday).

    Here is some information about the Mass Save Great Appliance Exchange. You are welcome to share this information with concerned constituents. DOER phone lines are busy with calls at the moment, but we are working to add lines and dedicating staff to address concerns. Legislators should feel free to call DOER or EEA legislative staff directly. If your constituents want to talk to someone at the DOER Appliance hotline, they can try (617) 626-7350  and we will make every effort to talk to them.

    The Mass Save Great Appliance Exchange is now closed.

    More than 26,000 rebate reservations have been made for new energy efficient appliances, replacing the same number of energy-guzzling appliances, as a result of the Mass Save Great Appliance Exchange, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Massachusetts households tapped the funds faster than any other state so far, reserving all the funds in only 2.5 hours. An additional 11,000 appliances have been reserved through the waiting list.

    The unprecedented interest in the program generated more than a million calls. At any one time there were as many as 3000 people making reservations online.

    While the demand unfortunately exceeded funds available, the outcome is a boost to the Massachusetts economy and will deliver significant energy savings to customers across the Commonwealth. We are proud to have put these ARRA funds to work by driving increased appliance sales through Massachusetts retailers. Initial estimates indicate that the program will deliver around 2.6 million kilowatt hours of energy savings – enough to power 300 – 400 households for a year.

    There were, however, many people who were not able to participate because of limited funds and because the volume was so high and the Mass Save website was at times overwhelmed by the volume. DOER regrets how difficult it was for many to participate, apologizes for the inconvenience, and will investigate the process further.

    Those with reservations have until May 5 to purchase their appliances and until June 19 to send in for their rebates. If you have questions about your reservation, check your confirmation email or call 1-877-MASWAP1.

    State officials will be investigating what exactly happened to cause any disruptions in the program. We are still getting reports from vendors on call and web traffic volume, and where problems occurred. It appears there was a problem with the website very early on that caused the site to crash intermittently. That drove more traffic to the call center than was anticipated. Moreover the surprisingly high level of media coverage over the last few days also seems to have driven demand well beyond what was anticipated. In addition it appears that our vendors may have underestimated call volume.

    The Great Appliance Exchange program was established and funded as directed by Congress in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Massachusetts officials worked with existing efficiency program administrators (utilities and the Cape Light Compact) and the Retail Association of Massachusetts to design the program, and hired a group of vendors to set up and run the program. All parties were working with guidance issued by US Department of Energy about how to structure the program.

    Massachusetts received approximately $6.2 million on a formula basis (per state population) from Congress and US DOE. We worked to keep costs of administering the program as low as possible, making $5.4 million available for rebates. Costs of administering the program included setting up the website and rebate forms; running the call center; marketing, outreach and coordination with retailers; processing all customer rebate forms; and tracking all program data. Putting more of the funding to program operation may or may not have smoothed the technical difficulties, but would have reduced funds available for customer rebates.

    There are some things the Massachusetts program did better than other states. Not all states required retirement and recycling of old appliances. In addition, for 3 of the 4 product categories, we only gave rebates for very efficient models that exceed EnergyStar performance levels, to ensure customers will see significant savings.

    The program administrators will be rolling into the wait list as soon as any people with current reservations drop out of the program.

    People can also explore to see if they qualify for other energy efficiency incentives and programs that can help you save money and protect the environment.

  3. A couple of points:
    1. These rebates are only available for those with existing appliances. Therefore, no rebate if you are currently washing your dishes by hand or driving to the laundromat. Perhaps in the future, new installations could be added for those homes without any already (maybe require proof of a new installation) especially for dishwashers since hand washing dishes is especially wasteful.

    2. Several months ago I had a washing machine failure, so I shopped around, figuring I would need to buy a new one even though I’m hoping to do a renovation which will (hopefully) include a new laundry space. Happily there were some rebate programs going on. Unhappily, prices were high. Magically, my washer made a comeback so I decided to wait.

    Recently I was in a store fantasizing about my future washer. I noticed that the prices have come down noticeably – and the rebate programs seemed to be over. Interesting.

    Do these rebates simply cause appliance prices to go up? Resulting in a zero net gain for the consumer, but money lost for the tax payer? Maybe this isn’t such a smart strategy.

    Or the rebates should be smaller but allow the buyer to use them over a long period of time to allow shopping around and proper planning. That would be more helpful.


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