Officials discuss housing energy conservation
By Capt. Kyle Thomas
| | December 13, 2012
MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Until recently, Marines and Sailors living in Marine Corps base housing could trust their Basic Allowance for Housing to cover their utility use; however, it appears the Marine Corps’ flat rate for home energy will be a thing of the past such as boot polish and starched “cammies.”
Officials from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and Lincoln Military Housing held a Resident Energy Conservation Program town hall meeting at the Base Theater to discuss this change with housing residents, Dec. 4.
“This program will not affect roughly 80 percent of you,” Col. Don Davis, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, said. “The top 10 percent will have to pay a few dollars more if they don’t pay attention to how they conserve energy. Those in the bottom 10 percent, who use less energy than the average, are probably going to receive a rebate.”
Questions quickly arose from the audience about paying for overages, with residents concerned about being pushed into the upper 10 percent by other residents who will strive for a more austere existence to save money or receive a rebate. Davis, as well as Steve Browne, regional vice president, Lincoln Military Housing, went into further detail, explaining the billing process and addressing the slew of rumors from around the Marine Corps.
How it works - residents will be billed according to “housing type.” This means thresholds associated with energy use will be based on a group of homes with similar floor plans and square footage. In short, a military family living in a two-story house will not be expected to use the same amount of energy as a family living in a duplex. The billing of the two families, if they’re billed at all, will not fall into the same category, according to Browne.
The system also excludes atypical uses of energy from the average.
For instance, if someone cranks his or her air conditioner to 60 degrees and leaves all of the windows and doors open, he or she will more than likely fall into the upper 5 percent.
Because this upper 5 percent will not be included in the overall average it will not affect other residents.
If a resident finds himself or herself placed in this bracket, he or she will only have to pay the excess, not the total bill, according to officials.
The same concept also applies to those who fall into the bottom 5 percent.
Those who “live like a monk” will not affect the average.
This means other residents will not be required to drastically change their energy consumption to keep from paying, according to Browne.
“Don’t think because someone lives a Spartan lifestyle (he or she is) going to bust the curve,” Davis said. “The family will receive a rebate for being energy conscious, but they will not affect the total average.”
The program also factors in seasonal energy use. This translates into varying thresholds as energy use fluctuates in the winter and summer months.
Residents will not have to worry as much when turning on their cooling units more often in July and August as well as turning the heat up in January and February.
Although this may come as a surprise to Marines and Sailors, this is nothing new for the Department of Defense. The Army initiated its share of the program in 2003 and the Air Force followed suit in 2006. The Marine Corps began its efforts in 2010 with pilot programs at bases and stations in Hawaii as well as Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. In every instance, the initiative began with “mock billing,” showing residents whether or not they were above or below thresholds so they could adjust their energy use.
However, despite the DOD mandate, Yes Energy, a private contractor, will filter these funds back to the housing community to be used for home improvements, playgrounds and other quality of life programs. In other words, the Marine Corps and the government-at-large will not profit from military families. Both Yes Energy and Lincoln Military Housing have flat-rate contracts with the U.S. government and therefore will not profit from the overuse of energy either, according to RECP literature.
Officials will initiate the program here in a similar manner as the rest of the Marine Corps starting with mock billing in January and moving to “live billing” in April, meaning this is the month in which residents will have to start paying for their overages.
“So far the highest amount a resident would have paid here (if live billing were in place) would have been around 37 dollars,” Davis said. “The highest rebate would have been 23 dollars.”
“These examples fall in the upper and lower 5 percent respectfully, so the averages for rebates and billing are actually much lower,” he added.
Base and Lincoln Military Housing officials will have another town hall meeting in mid-March, shortly before live billing begins.