The Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) was created to make residents of military housing more aware of their energy use and to therefore reduce consumption. The goal is to lower energy use for environmental reasons and to save the government money.
So far the government is the only one seeing any savings as hundreds of military families find huge bills in their mailbox for energy they say was not justly charged or actually used.
The pilot for the Resident Energy Conservation Program took place in Hawaii between 2011 and 2012. In that initial test phase, the government saw a 9% reduction in use, which ultimately saved them $1.3 million according to Commander, Navy Installations Command. The reality for military families however was quite the opposite.
Compiled complaints show that military families consistently were charged $200 to $600 a month in electricity bills for over use. Many people claim that they did not use the equivalent amount of energy to justify such steep bills. Military housing says the bills are correct and have not done much to sway these families from feeling unjustly charged.
The pilot for the Resident Energy Conservation Program was considered by the government to be a success and over the last few years has been rolled out to all Marine Corps and Navy housing. It isn’t a bad program. In an effort to persuade residents to conserve energy, the program includes a reward element. The government’s research showed that when families embraced the Resident Energy Conservation Program that consumption fell 20%. To motivate families to achieve this, the Resident Energy Conservation Program was equipped with a credit or reimbursement for families that saved energy.
How does the Resident Energy Conservation Program determine use?
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is meant to cover the normal use of electricity or gas and water and sewer as compared to families with similar homes out in town.
To determine average use on base, the Resident Energy Conservation Program uses Like-Type Groups (LTGs). These are homes in the same neighborhood that are in the same condition and age. These could include homes with similar square footage and number of bedrooms as well as the type of home and the type of energy, gas versus electricity.
It does not account for the number of people in a household just as BAH is not adjusted for the number of family members. From this, a monthly Normal Usage Band is created.
The Normal Usage Band gives a leeway of 10% over and under, providing room for consumption. For residents that use 10% less than the norm, they are given a credit or rebate. Military families that go over the 10% rate are charged for the overage.
This makes the Resident Energy Conservation Program sound fair, but residents are receiving bills far beyond what they consider reasonable. When military families question the housing office, they say that is what was used and that is what is owed.
A number of military families have been able to have their meters tested for accuracy however. Some have found their meter was actually connected to a street light or a neighbor’s home. Military housing originally was not designed with individual homes running on meters. Specialists had to go in and set up meters. In some instances, those individuals merely guessed which lines went to which houses.
What can you do if you think your utility bill is wrong?
If you are living in military housing and believe your bill is not accurate contact the resident services manager or housing office. You can request a home evaluation to make sure all appliances are using energy efficiently as well. The manager can sit down with your family and help you understand ways to conserve energy. In the meantime, you still have to pay your bill. If you do not, you may find an eviction letter in your mailbox next.
There are waivers available for wounded warriors and families registered with the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). If your family uses excess electricity due to medical reasons, you can request a waiver from the Resident Energy Conservation Program. You can submit a request through the EFMP office or through the Wounded Warrior Bn.
If you are still unsatisfied, you can reach out to your chain of command. NCIS is conducting its own investigation in some areas so you can also contact them. Lastly, you can submit a claim to the Inspector General.