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"Holding my money hostage" Mass Save's rebate mess infuriates customers

I-Team: Homeowners waiting for rebates from Mass Save program
I-Team: Homeowners waiting for rebates from Mass Save program 03:19

BOSTON - Massachusetts set a goal to retrofit 80% of homes and buildings in the state with energy-efficient systems by 2050. As an incentive, the Mass Save program offers substantial rebates to homeowners who invest in environmentally friendly heating and cooling systems.

But, despite several I-Team investigations and promises to improve, the program continues to be plagued with problems and what some say is the "Mass Save Mess."

Grant Coscia's Canton home is now equipped with zippered insulation that helps the heat stay in during the winter and keeps the cool air inside during the summer. Grant tells the I-Team he installed an energy-efficient heat pump in his attic that works as both a heating and cooling system with, "just a click of a button."

Grant Coscia
Grant Coscia shows WBZ his heat pump system in his attic CBS Boston

In central Massachusetts in Sutton, Chris Bannon installed mini-split heat pumps, and says, "we couldn't be happier."

The systems are expensive, but, both homeowners are passionate about the environment and want to be energy efficient. They also had an added incentive knowing they would get thousands back in rebates through the Mass Save program.

Grant says he expects to get $10,000 and Chris is planning on receiving $5,000 back. His wife, Kate Bannon says, "People like us we depend on that rebate, it's a lot of money for us."

But both families had trouble getting the rebates after putting the systems in and paying for them. Grant says, "At this point, it feels like they're holding my money hostage."

"It's really frustrating and disheartening, that people like us who are trying to do the right thing and make the right decision for the environment, that we are being exposed to this hassle," Kate said. 

Heat pump
Heat pump system installed at the Bannon's house in Sutton CBS Boston

The I-Team has been reporting on the problems at Mass Save for years. Despite numerous promises to improve the rebate process, little has changed.

The Mass Save program is funded with a delivery charge that is added to gas and electric bills that everyone pays. The utility companies collect the money that adds up to billions.

Representative Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin) chairs the joint committee on Telecommunications and Energy. "It's a huge amount of money," Roy said. "If they want to keep doing the job, they've got to do it better."

The I-Team has learned Mass Save has a backlog of rebates to process. In a statement, Mass Save says: "To address this challenge and improve our customer experience, we engaged a new rebate vendor in July and are working with them to address any outstanding rebates as quickly as possible."

Kate Bannon says, "I think this is critical that they resolve this."

Representative Roy, tells the I-Team, "When you get those horror stories, that set up disincentives for consumers to retrofit their homes, that's a problem, that's a problem that needs to be addressed and we need to hold the utilities accountable." 

"I do not think they are looking out for the public interest," Grant Coscia said. "I feel like it is a bureaucratic institution that is failing us."

After the I-Team contacted the utility companies, both families got their rebates, totaling a combined $15,000. The Department of Public Utilities oversees the Mass Save program, but it has done little over the years to address consumer concerns. The agency now says it is monitoring the new rebate vendor. 

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