Home Base Life Base Housing: Will you get a bill or a refund?

Base Housing: Will you get a bill or a refund?

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Families in private housing on Marine Corps installations will start receiving utility bills this summer ahead of a servicewide plan to charge power hogs and credit power savers. Residents won’t yet pay or collect refunds. That will happen in October at the earliest, with most billing starting by January, officials said.

The plan is part of the “Resident Energy Conservation Program,” which the Marine Corps rolled out April 1 to give families incentives to use less power. The Corps, with nearly 23,000 privatized family homes managed by public-private venture companies, is installing electric meters in all homes lacking the devices. In the next step, installations will establish baselines, or averages, of electricity usage.

HOW IT WORKS

Families in private housing on most Marine Corps bases will soon start receiving utility bills. Here’s how the program will work:

  1. Measure a baseline. Each month, the installation determines the “average” electric usage for each group of homes. This baseline electrical usage will vary by installation and house type and size. Also taken into consideration will be the age of the house, number of bedrooms and other features that drive energy use.
  2. Determine who will pay. If your energy use falls within 10 percent of the average, you will not pay anything, nor will you collect a credit or refund. Families below that range will receive that difference as a credit or rebate on their bill. Those above the range will be billed for the excess. Source: Marine Corps.

“If you go below the line, you will get a refund. If you go above that, you will have to pay,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, the Marine Corps Installations-West commander, in an interview. “This is really a mindset change.”

Starting in July, residents will get “mock” bills that show actual usage, but the utility payment won’t be collected, said Navy Capt. Tony Edmonds, the Marine Corps’ facilities director. That will cushion the shock for those using the most power and prompt them to adjust personal habits and family routines to conserve more.

“We are trying to launch this massive energy campaign to get our troops to have an energy ethos and a culture of conservation,” Edmonds said. That means saving energy at home, too. “We think that each family has the ability to control their destiny,” he added.

The program will be phased across all installations with privatized housing, but it excludes three bases that have only government residences: Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow, Calif.; Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.; and Awaken Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan.

About 40 percent of Marine Corps families live in military housing, where the monthly housing allowance covers rent and most household utilities, Edmonds said. Excessive utility consumption has been tolerated, but won’t be for long.

The Corps’ program is part of a broader Defense Department initiative that lets the services charge for utility use over a preset average. Studies found military families, whose housing allowances are supposed to cover “normal” utility use, are worse users of utilities than civilian residents.

Marine Corps officials are considering a similar authorized program for natural gas use, but no decision has been made, Edmonds said.

Under the new electric plan, waivers will be available for wounded warriors and family members with disabilities or special needs requiring certain energy-intensive medical equipment, Edmonds said.

SAVE THESE DATES

Here’s what’s coming as part of the Marine Corps’ “Resident Energy Conservation Program”:

  • April: Notices and program information will be distributed to residents in public-private venture family housing. Metering installation will continue.
  • April to September: PPV housing leases will reflect the new utility billing policy.
  • July to September: Residents will receive “mock” utility bills that show their real electric use. No accounts will be charged for excessive use or credited for savings during this time.
  • October: Actual billing and crediting begins, with varying start dates phased through September 2013.  Source: Marine Corps

Implementation follows beta testing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. During testing, those bases saw electricity use drop 9 percent, according to Marine Corps figures.

Also, the tests showed that 20 percent of families were high-end users, and their monthly bills ranged from $19 to $57, while 21 percent were low-end users who received monthly credits of $16 to $44.

“The Marine Corps is not simply jumping into this,” Maj. Gen. James Kessler, who heads Marine Corps Installations Command, said in a statement. “Our pilot program proved the concept and led to some small adjustments in the program to strengthen our approach. It is with the full knowledge gained from our pilot that we are going forward with this expansion.”

While the program will be stricter than the pilot, officials anticipate a similar bell curve in usage and savings.  “We do expect more families to get credits or rebates than we expect to get bills,” Edmonds said.  The Marine Corps’ annual electric bill for its PPV housing has run about $28 million a year, according to Capt. Kendra Hardesty, a spokeswoman at Marine Corps headquarters.

Under the new plan, as families curb electric use by an estimated 12 to 15 percent, Marine Corps officials project annual savings of $4 million.

Those savings won’t go in the pockets of the PPV companies, Edmonds said, but will cover the costs of the metering program and fund the Corps’ long-term plans to maintain and upgrade the homes, such as new windows, replacement roofs and pipe repairs, through the 50-year PPV leases.

Along with metering more homes, the Corps is spending $200 million this year and hopes to get $160 million in 2013 for energy improvements at its installations. That includes the addition of “smart” meters, which automatically relay usage data, at thousands of official buildings in another effort to trim energy use by 30 percent by 2015, Edmonds said.

“We can show them exactly how much they are using,” he said. An accompanying meter data management system will “inform them of their use, as a first step in holding them accountable for their use.” Meters eventually will track about 80 percent of the Corps’ electrical usage, he said.

Article by By Gidget Fuentes on the Marine Corps Times website.

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