To date, utility allowances have been based on an annual five-year rolling average of consumption in similar-style homes – with an additional 10 percent buffer. Beginning in February 2017, however, base residents could receive an actual bill for utilities.
“For the past several years on-base residents at Vandenberg [Air Force Base in southern California] have been receiving mock bills for their gas and electric usage with a utility allowance annotated for their home to help prepare them for eventual live billing,” Chief of Housing Management Gretchen Swinehart, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, told the Santa Maria Times. “Live billing still will occur in the near future and all residents will be assigned a utility allowance – but the way in which the allowance is calculated is going to change.
“The new policy,” Swinehart told the local news outlet, “will calculate the utility allowance for like-type home groupings based on the average monthly gas and electric meter readings and current rates – and will eliminate the 10 percent buffer. However, for groupings of fewer than 10 homes the allowance will still be calculated on a rolling five-year average, but without the 10 percent buffer.”
Overall, the newspaper reported, the USAF has noted substantial energy savings in areas where the new policy has already been in effect.
“This Air Force wide program helps encourage energy savings while giving financial incentives to housing residents who conserve electricity and natural gas,” said Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Ryan Novotny. “Individual home energy consumption will be monitored just like it is when living off-base. This program has successfully decreased overall housing energy consumption by 21 percent, at locations where the program is already ongoing.”
According to a USAF fact sheet:
“After the utility allowance program is implemented at your base, you will be responsible for the cost of natural gas and electricity you consume. If you consume less energy than your utility allowance, you will pocket the savings. If you consume more than your allowance, you will be required to pay out of pocket for the difference.
“The majority of residents will not be significantly impacted by this change, although rebates will not be as large. Roughly 75 percent of all residents will be within $8 of the allowance, the Santa Maria Times reported. In general, fewer families will receive large rebates and more residents will receive bills, but as long as a household’s total consumption falls at, or below, the average for all homes in their housing profile, the resident will have zero out-of-pocket costs.”
Encouraging occupants to evaluate their current energy consumption for the next few months, residents will receive mock bills until February 2017.
“Residents will have an opportunity to review their current gas and electric usage in comparison with the revised utility allowances on their mock bills for the next three months,” Swinehart told the news outlet. “This will allow them to take steps in advance of live billing to reduce their consumption, if desired, to ensure they fall within their utility allowance amount, or even under it, and receive a credit.