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Army to gauge electricity billing


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POSTED: Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nearly 6,000 residential homes on Oahu Army posts next year will be part of a pilot program intended to help soldiers and their families save on electrical costs.

Ann Wharton, spokeswoman for Army Hawaii Family Housing in Hawaii, said there are 400 “;historic homes”; on Oahu that still need to have special electrical meters installed. Next year, the Army will begin monitoring the meters at homes at Schofield Barracks, Fort Shafter, Aliamanu and other housing areas to determine a baseline on electrical usage, Wharton said.

“;Actual or live billing will probably begin 2011,”; Wharton added. There is currently no charge for soldiers who live in on-post housing.

During the “;mock billing”; period, an average electrical usage will be determined by comparing like homes, taking age, the floor plan and square footing into account.

The yearlong “;mock billing”; program is just the start of an effort begun in 1996 under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, which allowed all of the military services to privatize family housing. Two years later, the Pentagon published guidelines requiring all soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines living in on-base housing to be responsible for the utilities they consume. The directive also established procedures that allow servicemembers who conserve to be financially rewarded and those who do not conserve to be billed for excess consumption.

The Pentagon has mandated that this program be implemented all of its on-base housing areas by 2013.

In Hawaii, only the Army is ready to implement a pilot electrical metering program.

Bill Doughty, spokesman for Navy Region Hawaii, said: “;We fully support Department of Defense's and Department of the Navy's efforts to achieve greater energy efficiency in operations at sea and ashore. For privatized military housing, the Navy is exploring the possibility of conducting a pilot program to develop utility allowances and the process to implement the resident utility billing program for Navy-wide privatized homes as called for in the privatized housing agreements. The details of the Navy program are still being formulated.”;

The Air Force did not respond to requests for comment on what is planned for the residential homes at Hickam Air Force Base.

Soldiers who now do not live on Army posts receive a basic housing allowance that includes energy consumption costs, rent and renters insurance.

Under the Pentagon plan, military on-post families who use more than the average, or baseline, will receive a bill for excess usage. Residents who use below the average will receive a rebate equal to the monetary amount of energy saved.

Wharton said Army housing officials have not decided how the rebate will be paid.

At Fort Drum in New York, Army families are issued credits that could be used to purchase items, Wharton said. At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, live billing began in June 2008 and Army families are given cash rebates.

An Army news release said that as of October, 31 percent of military housing residents received rebates averaging $29.56 a month. Fort Bragg allows a 5 percent buffer before the excess-usage fee is levied.

The program does not extend to single soldiers living in apartment-style housing on post.

The Army said that all the dollars saved will be used in Hawaii for the construction of new homes and community facilities.