REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Redstone's utility bill remains a heavy burden.

In fiscal 2011, the installation's utility costs amounted to $57,660,087.56. This included $34,199,075.26 for electricity, $2,660,556.85 for natural gas, $31,682.35 for refuse, $535,842.71 for sewage, $18,345,545.04 for steam, $576.84 for vending, $1,156,707.93 for domestic water and $730,103.58 for industrial water.

This represents an increase from the $53,583,939 in fiscal 2010, but the $4,076,148.56 difference is mainly attributed to new facilities brought online. These included Von Braun III, Army Materiel Command headquarters, Rotary Wing buildings, and so on, not to mention several smaller buildings built through the Garrison construction group.

Energy manager Mark Smith and quality assurance engineer Patrick Holmes, both of the Energy Management Office for the Garrison, hope the energy bills serve as incentives to save.

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."

"There are several reasons to conserve," Holmes said. "For the Army, it means spending less taxpayer dollars on energy so that those dollars may be spent elsewhere. Improve energy security. Lessen the reliance/burden on energy suppliers (for example, if TVA has to build new electric generation sites to keep up with demand then electric rates may go up). Reduce environmental impacts. It's the law for the government under EPACT 2005, EISA 2007 and several other executive orders and mandates. Energy supplies are limited. Conservation also means to be good stewards of what we have."

The easiest way workers can help is by turning off lights when rooms are empty, turning off computers at the end of the day, and limiting or eliminating personal space heater use. People should realize that it's impossible for everyone to be at a comfortable temperature all of the time.

"I don't think people here waste energy on purpose or knowingly. A lot can be saved just by doing common sense things that you would do at home," Holmes said. "Sometimes with an organization this large it is difficult to know who to contact or where to begin to change things. If someone sees a maintenance issue they should contact their facility manager or call 876-2801. If you have an energy conservation idea meet with your building energy monitor (every building should have someone assigned to this duty) to discuss it or contact the Garrison Energy Office (842-0014). Each person can make a difference. It just comes down to taking the first step and then following up."

Redstone's strategy includes trying to implement its energy conservation contracts through TVA. "We're doing lighting retrofits, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) improvements, building envelope improvements (insulation and windows)," Smith said.

Construction is about to begin in the building 5600 area and part of the 5400 area on the second portion of a steam reduction project with TVA.

Utility 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.

Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton explained the reasons for energy conservation's importance to Redstone.

"We've got to be smart about how we spend the taxpayers' resources. Utilities represent a huge percent of our budget," Hamilton said. "We also have a responsibility to preserve the environment as best we can."