By Vince Little, The BayonetJanuary 8, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - If you're concerned about wasting energy, you could wind up with a little more money every month.
Fort Benning is launching a utility conservation effort in military family housing areas that places more consumption responsibility on residents while offering an incentive for reduced energy use. The Utility Conservation Program begins Feb. 1 on a "mock-billing" basis in McGraw, Patton and Upatoi villages and goes live in July, post housing officials said. Utility billing eventually will happen in all neighborhoods, including Porter Village in Dahlonega, Ga., but schedules have not been determined.
Keith Lovejoy, the Residential Communities Initiative asset manager, said the measure is a Department of Defense requirement being implemented on all installations to help educate service members and families about the importance of conserving scarce natural resources. It's aimed at lowering excess utility use among residents and promoting awareness of energy consumption.
"We all have an interest and responsibility to do our share in this endeavor," Lovejoy said. "We at Fort Benning are joining the DoD campaign a little later than most other installations, but the extra time we have taken has helped us recognize and correct some of the challenges other installations have already experienced."
During the trial run in McGraw, Patton and Upatoi villages, residents will receive statements in the mail reflecting their energy usage for the previous month, according to a program letter distributed by The Villages of Benning. Residents are encouraged to pay close attention to their energy consumption during this time and make necessary adjustments if they are over their utility allowance to avoid being financially accountable once actual billing begins.
Under the DoD mandate, all villages and units will receive meters and face the same "mock" billing periods prior to live billing, housing officials said. Only electricity and natural-gas consumption will be monitored as part of Fort Benning's resident responsibility program.
Lovejoy said participating DoD installations have cut average utility use by up to 20 percent and similar results are expected here.
According to The Villages of Benning letter being sent to residents, program savings will be kept at Fort Benning and used to build additional new homes, fund extensive renovation projects, upgrade amenities in new and renovated homes, expand community services and provide refund checks to those who conserve energy.
Lovejoy said Fort Benning Family Communities LLC develops an annual budget each year that's approved by COL Thomas Macdonald, the garrison commander.
"So the more we save on the installation, the more money is available to do renovations and new facilities," Lovejoy said.
Macdonald said he's confident the utility conservation effort will be a success.
"This program will create responsible stewardship of our energy resources," he said. "Additionally, while all of us will become better stewards, the very best will save money. I am committed to ensuring the command and the Army do its part to promote the program."
Bob Chenoweth, the senior representative for Pinnacle Property Management, the Fort Benning Family Communities LLC partner, said everything is being done to conserve natural resources.
"This program is a great opportunity for Soldiers and families to learn and discuss the benefits for saving our resources for future generations of people across America," he said.
Fort Benning Utility Conservation Program:
Frequently Asked Questions:
How does the program work'
To assure fairness, profiles will be created to categorize each home with others that have similar characteristics such as age; construction type; heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; and square footage. Once a profile is established, baseline amounts can be calculated. Eso Global, the billing company for The Villages of Benning, determines baselines by dividing the total consumption for each profile by the number of homes within that profile. This calculation is done at the end of each month for the month prior. Therefore, residents may notice a decrease in their baselines during the milder weather months.
Will I have to pay'
The resident's BAH pays for energy consumption up to the baseline amount. If the home is on baseline or within $25 of the baseline, then no action (bill or refund) is necessary. The resident will simply receive a consumption statement from Eso Global.
If the home falls beneath the baseline by more than $25, the resident will receive a refund check from Eso Global for the full amount below the baseline. However, if the amount is below baseline but does not meet or exceed $25, then that amount is cumulative. (For example, if a resident is $10 under baseline last month and $15 beneath baseline this month, a refund check will be issued for $25, resulting in a "0" ending balance.)
If the home exceeds the baseline by more than $25, the resident will receive a bill for the full amount above the baseline. However, if the amount exceeds the baseline but is less than $25, then that amount is cumulative. (For example, if a resident is $10 above baseline last month and $15 over baseline this month, a bill will be issued in the amount of $25 for the current month. Payment will take the resident back to a "0" ending balance. This also provides the resident with the awareness to adjust his or her energy consumption accordingly.)
Won't Soldiers have to pay for a benefit they previously had covered when living on post'
If people conserve and use utilities wisely, there will be little or no out-of-pocket expenses. Responsibility means awareness of use and conservation. If utilities are used responsibly, and are below an established baseline, families will receive a rebate. Only if it's above that baseline will Soldiers owe the difference.
What is the BAH breakdown and how will it help the Soldier with his or her utility bills'
BAH includes components of rent, utilities and renter's insurance. However, this breakdown by component and dollar amount has no relationship to what the Soldier will be charged for utilities.
What if the house I live in is not energy-efficient'
The average consumption used to determine your monthly utilities allowance will be based on the actual house you live in and other similar houses. (For example, an older historic home will have a baseline determined by comparing it with other older historic homes and their utility usage.)
Town hall meetings:
The Villages of Benning will host utility conservation town hall meetings for McGraw, Patton and Upatoi residents at 6 p.m. Thursday and Jan. 21 at McBride Elementary School. Door prizes will be given away. For more information about the town halls or the Utility Conservation Program, visit www.benning.pinnaclefamilyhousing.com or check out upcoming community newsletters.
Source: The Villages of Benning