I-Team: Lawmaker Questions Utilities About Mass Save Rebate Issues

BOSTON (CBS) – A state lawmaker is questioning utility companies about why some consumers have difficulties receiving their rebates after making energy upgrades through the Mass Save program.

The inquiry comes after a WBZ-TV I-Team report discovered customers who waited months to get rebate checks worth thousands of dollars. Some even complained to the Attorney General’s office about their experiences.

golden at hearing I Team: Lawmaker Questions Utilities About Mass Save Rebate Issues

State Rep. Thomas Golden. (WBZ-TV)

On Monday, Rep. Thomas Golden raised the issue during an energy efficiency hearing at the State House.

“What seems to be the disconnect here? What is the fundamental breakdown?” asked Golden, who chairs the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “Since (the WBZ story) aired, my office has been inundated with emails and calls from people looking for help.”

The Lowell Democrat directed his questions to representatives from National Grid and Eversource, who oversee the Mass Save program, along with other utilities around the state.

They told lawmakers they are constantly looking for ways to improve the process and looking for lessons that can be learned with each customer issue.

“One complaint is way more than we ever want to get,” said Bill Stack, who manages the residential energy efficiency program at Eversource. “We are constantly trying to improve the customer experience overall.”

charge I Team: Lawmaker Questions Utilities About Mass Save Rebate Issues

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Golden expressed concern that he had heard from so many consumers about a program that launched in 2008. Rate payers fund the program through a surcharge on their utility bills.

“They shouldn’t be having these issues, especially when you’re talking about the people who are paying for this program not getting what they deserve,” Golden told WBZ. “It is actually ridiculous.”

This summer, Bill Cedrone replaced the aging boilers at the three-family property he owns on Nottinghill Road in Brighton.

boiler2 I Team: Lawmaker Questions Utilities About Mass Save Rebate Issues

Bill Cedrone’s new boilers. (WBZ-TV)

The $30,000 for three new energy-efficient boilers was a big investment, but Cedrone knew the price tag would be easier to swallow, thanks to the anticipated $10,500 in rebates.

However, after the heating systems were installed in July, Cedrone could not get any answers about why he hadn’t received his money. He contacted the I-Team after seeing the October story.

cedrone 2 I Team: Lawmaker Questions Utilities About Mass Save Rebate Issues

Bill Cedrone talks to the I-Team’s Ryan Kath. (WBZ-TV)

“I almost gave up,” he said. “It was stressful and I have medical issues. I almost quit until I saw your report. And then it was like a whole new world opened up.”

Like other consumers, Cedrone will receive his rebate after the I-Team got involved.

Utility companies tell WBZ they successfully processed more than 13,000 heating rebates in 2016.

“We apologize to any customers inconvenienced by delays in receiving their rebates,” said Robert Kievra, a National Grid spokesman. “When issues do arise, we have taken immediate action to improve specific processes and enhance the customer experience.”

Eversource spokesman Michael Durand told WBZ the utility’s program manager will be meeting next week with the vendor to discuss how to tighten up oversight of the rebate program.

“We want to be brought into the loop sooner when issues arise,” Durand said.

Ryan Kath can be reached at rkath@cbs.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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