REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Redstone's electrical power had been restored by the time energy manager Mark Smith greeted a visitor in his darkened office last week.

With sufficient light coming in through the windows, he kept his lights off on purpose. He was practicing what he likes to preach: the gospel of energy conservation. And besides, "it makes it cooler (temperature-wise), too," he revealed.

And perhaps there is a bright side in the aftermath of the April 27 severe weather that left Redstone Arsenal and surrounding communities in the dark without electrical power for several days.

"Our power bill is not going to be as much next month," Smith quipped. "That's one way to save energy, I guess. Turn it off."

But seriously, monthly utility bills are just as burdensome for a sprawling Army post like Redstone as they are for most homeowners. Last year's total utility cost for Redstone Arsenal amounted to about $53 million. That fiscal 2010 price tag included $29.7 million for electricity, $2.7 million for gas, $17.4 million for steam, and accompanying expenses for water and sewage.

The bills are paid out of the Garrison budget from the Installation Management Command, but ultimately of course by the taxpayers. Each month, the Tennessee Valley Authority charges for power. And the Defense Energy Supply Center manages a contract for Redstone with BP, or British Petroleum, for natural gas. Redstone buys steam from Huntsville's Solid Waste Disposal Authority.

The utility cost can fluctuate from year to year because of two factors: how much energy is consumed, and the price of the commodity. Both attributed to last year's more than $6 million reduction from 2009.

"We saved a good bit on our steam through a project we did," said Smith, whose office is in the Garrison's Directorate of Public Works. "But I think the price fluctuated too somewhat on electricity."

Redstone's energy conservation goal is to reduce consumption 3 percent annually, based on a baseline year 2003. That's mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independent Security Act of 2007.

But the reasoning for energy conservation goes beyond federal statutes and executive orders.

"Just being good stewards with the resources we have available to us, by saving the energy when we don't need it," Smith said. "When you don't need it, turn it off. If you don't need it full speed, slow it down."

At work, this means workers should turn off the lights when they leave the office. And they should turn off their computer monitors when not in use; and shut off their computers for the nights and weekends.

At home, TVA recommends turning off lights; replacing standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs; turning up your cooling system's thermostat to 75-78 degrees Fahrenheit; and turning down your heating system's thermostat to 68 degrees. You can take a Home Energy Audit online at

Under a utility energy savings contract, Patrick Holmes does quality assurance and engineering for Smith in the Garrison's Energy Office.

"If you work out here, it (energy conservation) is going to save the taxpayers dollars and that's your dollars too. We're all taxpayers," Holmes said. "And it could be national security because we buy a lot of our oil and stuff overseas. And the less energy we have to buy overseas the less we're dependent on them to buy that.

"Just saving energy at home, family by family, that's going to put more money in your pocket. Also it makes it easier for utility suppliers, they don't have to provide as much electricity because it reduces the demand if you conserve."

Arthur Barnette, an electrical engineer for Chugach, has an old-school perspective of energy conservation. At age 80, he has worked at Redstone since 1964.

"From time to time, you look at it, you'd like to know: Do we have an energy conservation program or is it an energy conversation program'" Barnette said. "Because sometimes it seems we like to talk about it more than we do it. For an energy conservation program to work you've got to start when you buy new pieces of equipment. It needs to be the most energy efficient available."

He later added: "Instead of saying it starts with purchasing, really energy conservation starts when you're designing it."