Molokai warms up to program offering discounted fridges

Sixty Molokai residents traded in their old refrigerators – some 20 years old – for new more energy-efficient ones Tuesday – for $250.

The cost included delivery and recycling of the refrigerators in the Hui Up! 3.0 appliance exchange program offered in a partnership among the nonprofit Blue Planet Foundation; Hawaii Energy, a ratepayer-funded conservation and efficiency program; and Sust’AINAble Moloka’i, a local, grass-roots sustainability group.

The Energy Star Kenmore 18.2-cubic-foot, top-freezer fridge, shipping, delivery and disposal likely would have cost more than $1,000, but program participants received a large discount, said Catherine Lo, communications director for the Blue Planet Foundation.

“We’re really happy the people on Molokai are so enthusiastic about the program,” said Lo. “On Molokai, I guess they are a great example of how efficiency can help households lower their energy costs.”

She said the 60 residents, the first of possibly 300 to receive new fridges through the program, could save as much as $90 a month in their power bills, especially because some of the refrigerators were rusted and more than 20 years old. The older models are not very energy efficient, said Lo, which compounds the fact that Molokai residents pay the second highest electricity rates in the state at 46 cents per kilowatt hour, about 7 cents a kilowatt hour more than Maui residential ratepayers.

“Basically, our electric rate is out of the roof, and this is one way we can bring our electric bill down,” said Hui Up! 3.0 participant Desiree Puhi. “Here on Molokai, we don’t have the Lowe’s or the Costco. Getting appliances here is so difficult, so it’s a great program.”

There is no store that sells new large appliances like stoves and refrigerators on Molokai, said Lo. Most residents have to take a trip to Maui or Oahu, purchase the appliance and then arrange for shipping and delivery, she said.

In order to qualify for Hui Up! 3.0, applicants have to be Molokai residents and Maui Electric Co. ratepayers. Participants are asked to show proof of a residential MECO account and an old refrigerator in working order and put up the money upfront.

The volume purchase was negotiated by Blue Planet Foundation with funding from Hawaii Energy. The shipping, delivery and hauling away of the old fridges were worked out among Sust’AINAble Molokai, Sears, Makoa Trucking, Island Movers and Refrigerant Recycling.

“We’re very proud to partner with Blue Planet Foundation and Sust’AINAble Molokai to help aid our mission to encourage more and more people to conserve and find ways to be more efficient with their energy usage,” said Ray Starling, Hawaii Energy program director, in a news release.

Hui Up! 3.0 is a follow-up to an exchange program that replaced 36,000 incandescent bulbs on Molokai with energy-saving CFLs about two years ago. “We thought we don’t want to just leave the community,” said Lo, so the group did energy assessments and found that refrigerators were “really costing those households a lot of money.”

Sust’AINAble Molokai Youth Energy Team members visited participating households to conduct an energy assessment prior to receiving the new fridges and will be revisiting families to measure their change in energy consumption, a news release about the program said.

Another shipment of about 40 refrigerators is set for delivery in early November, Lo said.

“We are hoping to do 300 before the end of the year,” she said.

Molokai residents interested in Hui Up! 3.0 may find applications online at blueplanetfounda or by calling (808) 560-5410. Refrigerators are ordered on a first-come, first-served basis.

* Lee Imada can be reached at