Utility billing helping Belvoir in going green
In her kitchen, Julie Divine's mixer is unplugged as she loads dishes into the dishwasher. As an advocate for saving energy, Divine and her family unplug all appliances not in use.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - All across the Department of Defense, installations are instituting energy conservation programs to limit the environmental impact of the residents and staff who call them home.

The primary goal of these initiatives, according to the DoD, is reducing our overall energy consumption in the U.S. by 20 percent, which, in turn, would reduce our dependency on foreign energy.

Fort Belvoir Residential Communities, LLC, began instituting the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army's Residential Communities Initiative in June 2007 in Herryford and Vernondale Villages and efforts have continued to institute the process over the last three years.

The Army's RCI Resident Conservation Program was instituted and designed to provide incentives for Soldiers and their families living on post to be responsible for their energy consumption and further promote the "green" initiative.

Jennifer Watkins, marketing director for Pinnacle, explained how residents are billed and how the program works to limit each household's energy output.

"Each home has an individual meter that is read by our third party utility billing company, ista. Each home is categorized into a profile of like kind homes and each month an average utility consumption baseline is determined for each category by first taking out the highest and lowest ten percent of users in each category," Watkins said.

"Homes where consumption fell below the baseline receive a statement reflecting a credit for the usage that fell below the baseline. A $15 threshold generates either a remittance or refund due."

Currently, residents of all villages, except Woodlawn, Gerber, Belvoir and River, are metered for gas and electric consumption and are in the actual billing phase.

Meters have been installed in Gerber and Belvoir villages, and mock billing in those villages will begin in the next few months. As part of the ongoing renovations in River and Woodlawn villages, meters are being installed and mock billing will begin for those villages when the renovations have been completed and those homes become occupied.

Mock billing is the adjustment phase of the program and allows Soldiers to get a statement each month letting them know how much energy they consumed, if they went over the baseline and how much they would owe for that over-consumption.

This phase allows Soldiers time to become familiar with their energy usage habits and to make modifications to their habits to avoid having to pay for over-consumption.

Mock billing periods on Fort Belvoir occur over a three month period before residents are switched to actual billing.

According to Watkins, residents get monthly statements from ista. In line with industry standards, timing of the billing statements historically runs approximately 30 days behind the billing period. Due to this, some residents who have relocated to another home here on Fort Belvoir or have moved off post may receive a statement for usage that occurred at their former home 30 days or more after they have moved to their new home.

Watkins noted that some residents have expressed concerns over billed consumption versus what they perceived as their actual consumption.

"In these instances, ista is called to check the meter to confirm accuracy of readings," Watkins said. "There have been rare instances where resident meter readings have been crossed. In those cases, there was an investigation by ista and corrected statements were sent to all affected residents."

She added that most recently, ista has experienced a problem with electric meter reads that resulted in delayed billing and refund issuance.

"As a result of this problem, residents may receive billing or refunds covering a four-month period, Sept. 9 through Jan. 10," Watkins said. "A full analysis has been conducted and we anticipate that all issues will be resolved in March.

"Any resident with a balance due exceeding $100 will be offered a payment plan communicated to them by both ista as part of their statement and their community management office," Watkins said.

The utility billing program is a part of the Army's green initiative program, Live Army Green, which is a joint effort with privatized partners for Soldiers and their families to gain a better understanding of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and DA's utility policy through education in the form of energy-saving tips, programs and events.

For more information on Live Army Green, visit their Web site.

Residents with utility bill questions should call ista directly at 1-800-569-3014 or by e-mail at inquiries@ista-na.com. Residents may also check their bills online at ista-direct.com. If a resident still has any questions and/or concerns after contacting ista, they are encouraged to contact their community management office.

Page last updated Tue March 30th, 2010 at 14:41