By Aiko Rose Brum, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsSeptember 8, 2008
Savings in energy costs could fuel many more Army Family Covenant programs in HawaiiWHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - "It is the little things that really matter. Simple conservation measures - for example, turning off lights when you leave the room, washing clothes in cold water, turning off the window air conditioner when you leave your house, and just leaving the windows open - can make a huge difference," said Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI). The garrison commander is also keeping his options open - looking at four-day workweeks or telecommuting, or other different approaches for a government entity - to decrease the amount of money going to pay Army Hawaii's electric bill. If energy dollars can be saved, money can be put to better uses with more Army Family Covenant deliverables, such as free child care and additional recreation programs. "As you all know, energy prices have skyrocketed over the past year," Margotta said. "This has had a significant impact on USAG-HI, as this year we will spend $68 million on electricity alone." The commander emphasized that the expenditure is $15 million more than what was anticipated and budgeted. Hence, he charged his directorates, the organizations that support the installations, to accelerate to full throttle in monitoring and, hopefully, conserving energy usage. Margotta said programs are on the way to help decrease usage, like building and home metering, which will show users just how much they're consuming; however, work and residential communities must also consider what they are giving up. "The impact is on them," Margotta said. "Instead of that new children's playground, we are paying HECO (the Hawaiian Electric Company)." Yet, according to the garrison's utilities conservation manager, many employees may already be contributing their utmost to workplace energy conservation. Skyrocketing costs may actually belie conservation measures. "My personal bill at home is a great example. When I compare August 2008 to August 2007, the kilowatt hours used is about the same, but the cost is roughly 50-percent more for August 2008," said Robin Hibler, energy conservation manager, Directorate of Public Works (DPW), USAG-HI. Still, every employee who sits in front of a computer can impact energy costs. For example, if everyone, literally if every employee, would simply shut off his or her computer and monitor at the end of the workday, a savings of $500,000 could be instantly realized, Hibler explained. In too many instances, managers are discovering blatant violations of energy policy. "I have sat through meetings where I was shivering because of the cool temperatures in the room," said a garrison employee. "When I checked, the temperatures were set at 68 degrees, but we're supposed to enforce a 74-degree facility temperature. "I know this may seem insignificant to some people," she continued, "but we are under the gun to cut our energy bill, so we cannot behave in the same manner as we were when electricity was cheaper." Many factors influence post energy consumption, said Keith Yamanaka, garrison energy manager, DPW, USAG-HI. "Energy use is increasing due to two requirements: mission growth and quality of life," said Yamanaka. "To support mission, we are getting more facilities and increasing hours of operation. To improve quality of life, more facilities are being air-conditioned and to a higher standard than before. "While energy efficient technologies are being utilized where resources allow," he continued, "it cannot overcome the increases due to these requirements." In the weeks and months ahead, Soldiers, family members and garrison employees in Army Hawaii will see an increase in energy conservation messages. Margotta hopes the renewed emphasis will remind individuals that they are in the driver's seat when it comes to reducing energy consumption. After all, every dollar diverted to pay energy bills is a dollar that could have helped fund an Army Family Covenant initiative, sooner rather than later.