The Resident Energy Conservation Program was created to make base housing residents more responsible for energy conservation and management, but it’s left military families reeling with high bills, miswired homes, and what seems like no real oversight of the program.
The Marine Corps Gazette published a piece recently with how the Energy Conservation Program broke faith with military families.
“Overall, the military base housing RECP violates the Commandant’s planning guidance in its victimization of Marine Corps families. This is unethical and against the Commandant’s guidance on several counts,” says author 1stSgt Norman D. Fistler III.
Camp Pendleton utilizes Yes Energy for electric billing and management. The idea behind the billing is to create an average of like-homes, where the average is the ‘grace zone’ and those falling into the zone wouldn’t get a bill. Those who fall below the zone using less electricity get money back, and conversely, those above the zone using more electricity, pay.
Sounds good hypothetically.
Energy companies installed electric meters at each of the homes on base with privatized housing managing the program.
The Conservation Program would prove to be a huge problem for the base because homes were not built and wired to be independently billed for electricity. In fact, many of the homes were wired to street lamps, common areas, and other units in the neighborhood, only to be discovered after several-hundred-dollar bills were sent to military families.
One of the biggest complaints base residents have is that the program doesn’t take into account the number of people living inside a home. A family of 5 is going to use a lot more electricity than a family of 2, thus punishing the family of 5 with a significantly higher electric bill.
Oftentimes there are also empty homes in a neighborhood. The energy company says they don’t include those homes in the figures, but is anyone verifying this information? Where are the checks and balances?
But again the problem is in the execution of this plan.
Take for example a military family living in San Onofre II, a neighborhood of condos. Let’s call them the Smith family, to protect their privacy.
- The Smiths have lived in the four-plex unit since April, 2015.
- They’ve more or less been in the grace zone since that time. Until they weren’t.
- September, 2016 bill was $313.
- October, 2016 bill was $202.
And they’ve done nothing different or out of the ordinary.
In fact in 2015 and early 2016, Mrs. Smith didn’t work and stayed home where she used more electricity, but they were always in the grace zone.
Now both members of the Smith Family work away from the home from 8am to 5pm, Monday thru Thursday. How is it possible that they now owe several hundred dollars in electricity?
And how does a CONDO get that kind of electric bill for their home in the first place, when there are no air-conditioners installed?
In fact, there are hundreds if not thousands of families just like the Smith Family. This is happening across all military bases, from young NCO to senior officer housing.
Today the Smith family received a notice saying the family will be evicted in 3 days if they didn’t pay their electric bill. They’ve been begging people for answers, reaching out to Yes Energy and base housing for help.
Yes Energy responded and told the family to first pay, then they’ll conduct an investigation.
How are our military families expected to fork out several hundred dollars to a company on the chance that they’ll be reimbursed?
This isn’t right and it’s not fair. Our military families deserve better.
If you’ve been a family affected by this situation, I highly encourage you to call your local NCIS who are conducting investigations on your behalf and to submit a claim to the Inspector General.
About the Author: Kristine Schellhaas founded USMC Life in 2009 as a way to help inspire, connect and educate Marine Corps families and has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours helping military families through five wartime deployments.
Her award-winning book, 15 Years of War, was released June 1, 2016.
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