Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, October 7, 2012
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Green light on Navy plan

Sailors living on base may want to rethink cranking up the air conditioner in the coming months as the Navy begins implementing a "green" program that will require some residents pay their own power bills.

Currently, the Navy pays for the electricity to Naval Air Station Key West housing, which includes Trumbo Point, Truman Annex and Sigsbee Park, but the Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) will require the biggest consumers to pay their own bill.

Next month, everyone in Balfour Beatty -- the Navy's private-sector partner that manages residential properties -- housing will be given energy consumption reports for their home before a mock billing phase begins on Jan. 1, said NAS Key West spokeswoman Trice Denny.

The mock bills are intended to give sailors and their families a firm idea of how much energy they're using so they can make adjustments as needed before actual billing begins on April 1, Denny said. Residents will get their first bill on May 15 for the April pay period.

But not everyone will have to pay. Only those residents who exceed an established monthly average of power consumption in their neighborhood have to pay when the amount due exceeds $25.

Residents who use less than the monthly average accrue credits and will receive a rebate check when their credits reach $25, Denny said.

There is also a 10 percent "buffer zone," meaning that if power consumption falls within 10 percent of that monthly average -- either above or below -- residents don't have to pay, Denny said.

The average usage for a like group of homes is recalculated monthly to account for temperature variation, Denny said.

Residents of Peary Court are excluded from the program because the Navy is in the process of selling the property.

Wounded Warriors are also exempt and families coping with an illness or similar issue can apply for a waiver, Denny said.

Residents can also request the property manager perform an energy audit to give them an idea of where they can save energy and money.

"We have actually been monitoring usage for a year, since the installation of the meters," Balfour Beatty Community Manager Melissa Miller said in an email to The Citizen. "At this point, we are just using the data to check the accuracy of the meters to make sure there is a seamless transition at the start of the program. We haven't done any analysis on the usage as compared to previous periods."

Miller recommended residents take a close look at their mock bills before actual billing starts.

"We have developed the Switch4Good program to help residents understand how their habits affect their usage and shift those habits to help with conservation efforts," Miller wrote. "This program is completely free to the residents, and we encourage them to sign up."

NAS Key West commander Capt. Patrick Lefere said the program is being implemented nationally and that it should help sailors save money, if they are conscientious.

"This program comes from Department of Defense policy dictated back in 1998 and U.S. Air Force and Army installations have been using it for six years or more," Lefere wrote in a prepared statement to The Citizen. "Energy conservation is an obligation not just for us in the Navy but for us as human beings. The Resident Energy Conservation Program will incentivize our folks in family housing to save energy which could put money back into their pockets and ultimately back into our neighborhoods on base."

All other utilities such as water, sewer and trash pickup will remain included in residents' rent, as the RECP program only addresses electricity usage.

There will be two town hall meetings at which residents can learn more and ask questions. The first will be at 5 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Fly Navy building; the second is at 5 p.m. the next day, Oct. 24, at the Sigsbee Park Community Center.

Lefere and Balfour Beatty representatives will be on hand to answer questions, Denny said.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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