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Stimulus rebate will target appliances

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Steve Chiotakis: Approval is likely to come this week for a follow up to the Cash for Clunkers program. This time, the Department of Energy is targeting energy-sucking appliances. Reporter Elizabeth Threlkeld has more.

Steve Chiotakis: The stimulus bill set aside $300 million for a rebate program on energy-efficient appliances. The Department of Energy will dole out those funds to 56 states and territories based on population. Each will run its own program, so the value, scope, and timing of the rebates will vary.

That’s a lot for retailers to keep track of, says Bob Baird, who oversees Appliance Merchandizing for the Home Depot:

Bob Baird: It is going to be kind of complex. To the extent that you have lots of local programs, it’s tough for us.

Appliance retailers have been hit hard by the housing crash and recession. Baird hopes this program will bring double digit sales increases like past green appliance deals have.

But Sam Darkatsh, who tracks the appliance industry for Raymond James, isn’t convinced the rebates will attract new customers. Most people, he says, only buy new appliances when old ones break.

Sam Darkatsh: How much of this demand that’s created is actually incremental, versus just putting 100, 150 bucks into the pockets of someone who would have purchased that appliance anyway.

The appliance rebate program is small — just $300 million for an industry that typically brings in $20 billion in annual sales. But Cathy Zoi says it’s a step in the right direction for the economy and the environment. She’s oversees energy efficiency programs for the Department of Energy.

Cathy Zoi: The $300 million program is a good thing. It’ll be a boost, it’ll be a nice marketing push, but it is likely to run out rather quickly.

But don’t rush to replace that old fridge just yet — most rebate programs won’t start up until after the new year.

In Washington, I’m Elizabeth Threlkeld for Marketplace.

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