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HELENA  — If you missed out on “Cash for Clunkers,” the federal rebates for buying new, fuel-efficient vehicles, get ready for Round Two — but you won’t be buying a car or truck this time around.

Now, it’s “Cash for Appliances,” where Montanans will be able to get rebates ranging from $50 to $100 for replacing an old refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher or clothes-washing machine with a new, energy-efficient model.

“I think it’s a great recovery act program for the average consumer, and will be stimulative to the industry, too,” said Brian Green, energy program manager for the state Department of Environmental Quality. “It’s a good program for consumers to make their homes more energy-efficient.”

But the program won’t be ready for the holiday shopping season. The state must to hire a contractor to run the program and won’t launch it until next April, Green said.

Montana’s share of the $300 million national program is $928,000, which the state estimates will fund about 9,700 rebates. The payments will be limited to one per household, per qualified appliance.

To qualify for a rebate, consumers will have to purchase a new “Energy Star” rated appliance and recycle their old appliance.

The state plans to pay $100 rebates for replacement refrigerators and washing machines, $70 for freezers and $50 for dishwashers.

The payments will be in addition to rebates offered already by electric utilities or cooperatives. Montana’s largest private electric utility, NorthWestern Energy, currently offers no rebates to replace any of the appliances in the program, but several co-ops do, including Flathead, Yellowstone and Ravalli rural electric co-ops.

Most of the co-op rebates range from $10 to $25 per appliance. Montana-Dakota Utilities, which has about 25,000 customers in eastern Montana, also offers rebates to replace dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers.

NorthWestern Energy spokesman Claudia Rapkoch said the utility is considering possible new rebate programs for 2010.

The few states that already have launched their “Cash for Appliances” program had state energy offices or major utilities with similar programs already in place, allowing them to tie the federal funding to those programs, Green said.

Montana needs to hire a contractor, such as a rebate-fulfillment firm, to run the program. The bid solicitation on that contract won’t go out until January, Green said.

“We’d like to have been able to offer it sooner, but it just takes time to get the plan approved and do the solicitation for the rebate contractor,” he said.

Payment to the contractor will come out of the $928,000 allocation for Montana.

Once the contract is in place and the program is under way, those who want to participate will have to register with the contractor (if they’re eligible), after which they’ll have a period time, perhaps 30 days, to buy their replacement appliance. The contractor will verify that the appliance is an energy-efficient model, that the old appliance has been replaced and recycled, and process the rebate.

The plan is targeted at consumers, be they homeowners or renters. It is not for appliances used commercially or installed in new construction, Green said.

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