Conserving Energy in Navy and Marine Corps Military Housing

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) established a policy in 1998 transferring responsibility for payment of utilities in privatized family housing to the residents in order to encourage reduced energy consumption.  The Department of the Navy recently reviewed a pilot program designed to reduce energy usage in Public-Private Venture (PPV) housing onboard Navy and Marine Corps bases [1].  The Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) was tested in PPV housing communities in Hawaii and at Beaufort/Parris Island in South Carolina (where I was once stationed and lived in PPV housing) [2].  Until the pilot program began, residents of military housing on Navy and Marine Corps bases were not individually billed for their utility usage, and had little indication of their energy usage or incentive to conserve energy.

Beginning in September of 2010, residents of the pilot program PPV communities began receiving mock bills that detailed their energy use.  Houses were grouped by similar size and type, and the energy use for each group was averaged.  A “normal usage band” was created around the average usage.  Users that exceeded the usage band would be required to pay for the excess usage, while users that were below the usage band would receive a credit for their conserved energy [2].  The one year live usage portion of the program began in January of 2011.

The results of the pilot program showed an 8.8% reduction in electricity usage in the program communities, which equated to over 10.8 million kWh conserved and 4,250 tons of CO2 emissions avoided, with an approximate dollar value of $2.1M.  Since nearly 50% of the funding to operate the pilot program PPV housing communities in Hawaii is currently spent on utilities [3], the cost savings can be applied to other quality of life upgrades to homes, neighborhoods, and services for the military residents.

Due to the success of the pilot program, the Department of the Navy plans to implement the RECP in all of its PPV housing communities on Navy and Marine Corps installations within the next year, with live billing to begin in January of 2013 [1].  This is a positive step in promoting a culture of conservation by Navy and Marine Corps families and helps bring the Department of the Navy in line with OSD policies and goals for a more energy independent military establishment.

[1]  http://www.phma.com/pds/presentations/RECPSymposium/NavyRECP2012.pdf

[2]  http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=55060

[3]  http://www.denix.osd.mil/sustainability/upload/MCB-Hawaii_Resident-Energy-Conservation-Program_Community-Briefing.pdf

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Conserving Energy in Navy and Marine Corps Military Housing

  1. johnpmaxwell

    It is very interesting to see the military taking a lead on energy conservation while the rest of the country is still lacking when it comes to energy conservation. Reducing the power required to keep the military satisfied and at a base minimum, decreases the cost to taxpayers. By finding savings on their own, the military can avoid the impact from deep cuts due to budget issues.

    The deployment of on-site renewables and small scale nuclear could make for a more robust energy security program. With the ability of the bases to no longer have to rely on the grid, the military bases could survive any supply disruption and maintain an adequate level of operations. Hopefully with the expansion of the the RECP program, the behaviors of conservation will stay with these folks and will translate into a higher degree of conservation in the general public.

  2. veggeto121

    I think it’s interesting that there was an 8.8% reduction in electricity usage over the span of the year. It seems to me like having a “mock bill” instead of an actual bill completely removes the significance of the “rebound effect” on what the residents would actually be using. Was any other analysis done to account for this effect, or was the price per kWh kept constant so that this effect was not relevant?

    I also wonder how much the soldiers’ discipline played into this. This effect might be significant since they’re probably more likely to keep the consumption low (for whatever reasons) than an average user, having had extensive training and disciplinary exercises, but I could be wrong. I realize that the soldiers may not be at home for most of the day while their families may be, but it could still have an affect.

    Regarding the “normal usage band,” I’m not sure if that pricing structure would work for long. I’ve read about trials in civilian neighborhoods that were successful, but if I remember correctly, they only lasted for a few months before users increased consumption again. Also, I can imagine a flurry of lawsuits being brought up if a politician proposes a law making this mandatory, even if it means slightly lower prices for end users.

    Yet another issue is how these credits would be paid for. If there is one user in relatively small neighborhood that uses so much electricity that is has a significant effect on the average rate, the amount of money needed to be paid in credits could be significant. If tax dollars pay for these, then there would surely be people complaining that that is not a fair use of tax money. One strategy that could work is charging that user a significantly higher rate once a certain number of kWhs is exceeded (as Austin Energy does) such that this would be enough to pay for the credits.

    The “rebound effect” is described in reference [1] below if you’re interested in reading more about it.

    [1] Herring, H., (2008, Nov 18). Rebound effect. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/article/Rebound_effect

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