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Changes to housing utility policy set to impact base residents

After a comprehensive review conducted by the Department of Defense, the Air Force utility allowance policy is set to undergo significant changes. Currently, utility allowances have been based on an annual five-year rolling average of consumption in similar style homes – with an additional 10 percent buffer -- which is all factored into members’ Basic Allowance for Housing. Beginning in February 2017, however, base residents could receive an actual bill for utilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane M. Phipps/Released)

After a comprehensive review conducted by the Department of Defense, the Air Force utility allowance policy is set to undergo significant changes. Currently, utility allowances have been based on an annual five-year rolling average of consumption in similar style homes – with an additional 10 percent buffer -- which is all factored into members’ Basic Allowance for Housing. Beginning in February 2017, however, base residents could receive an actual bill for utilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane M. Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

After a comprehensive review conducted by the Department of Defense, the Air Force utility allowance policy is set to undergo significant changes.

Currently, utility allowances have been based on an annual five-year rolling average of consumption in similar style homes – with an additional 10 percent buffer -- which is all factored into members’ Basic Allowance for Housing. Beginning in February 2017, however, base residents could receive an actual bill for utilities.

“For the past several years on-base residents at Vandenberg 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,” said Gretchen Swinehart, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron housing management chief. “Live billing will still 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. Previously, the utility allowances were based on an annual five-year rolling average of the gas and electric consumption for like-type home grouping, plus a 10 percent buffer. The new policy 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 Air Force 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 Lt. Col. Ryan Novotny, 30th CES commander. “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.”

Although residents will become responsible for paying for gas and electric, they will still receive an allowance, it will just be based on the average monthly consumption for like-type homes.

According to an Air Force Question and Answer 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. 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,” said Swinehart. “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. Residents who consume more than their applicable utility allowance will receive a bill for the amount they exceed the allowance. In a nutshell, residents who consume less than the average will receive a rebate and residents who consume more than the average for their grouping will receive a bill. Please note residents will only receive a rebate or be required to pay a bill after they accrue a balance in excess of $50.”

Through November, Balfour Beatty plans to post additional information on their website and send emails to residents with further guidance. Additionally, Balfour Beatty will host a town hall in January to brief residents on the program and answer any questions or concerns. Furthermore, individuals with energy consumption concerns can request an energy audit from the Balfour Beatty maintenance department.

For more information, contact Vandenberg Balfour Beatty at 805-734-1445.