Navy’s new base housing electricity program under fire for ‘wacky bills’ and inaccuracies

Posted at 7:20 PM, Dec 06, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-06 19:20:23-05

“Some people have $500 dollar bills, others have $6 dollar bills, it doesn't even make any sense,” said Amy Smith, just one of the many military moms up in arms about the Navy's new "Resident Energy Conservation Program."

Meant to help the Navy cut down on electric costs in base housing, it’s now raising costs for some of these families, left confused and wondering about crazy numbers showing up on their mock bills.

“We use an average of 1800 KWH one month, and another month, we use only 560,” said Smith. “One of our bills, we used 2000 KWH in one day.”

Rent for Navy housing has covered electric costs for years—but under the new program, the Navy is now instituting an allowance limit each month.

That limit changes constantly...because it depends on what your neighbors' use.

The Navy stacks everybody up against an average for similar size houses.

It’s an amount unknown to these families until their bill comes in the mail.

“Most people can budget, know the average of what they pay each month, and I don't know how we are supposed to do that,” said Smith.

Some of the bills are so low, that even the Navy says they are flagging them as a problem.

This November bill from Whitehurst Farms shows the family used just $6 worth of energy all month!

Messing up the average for families like the Bower’s.

“How are my bills so high, but someone that has same exact set up, square footage and everything, has a six-dollar bill?” asked Andrea Bower.

According to her mock bills, Andrea's family used about $1,000 worth of energy in the past four months.

If the system was live, she would have racked up more than $300 in overage charges.

“It doesn't work. If it did, there wouldn't be as many complaints,” said Bower.

In the end, these residents say it all comes down to trust and that they don't have much in the Navy's new system.

“Start mock billing over with brand new equipment and do it the right way,” said Bower.

Still, the Navy says it's sticking with their January 1st start date, telling NewsChannel 3 they monitored the mock billing process, and out of 4300 housing units in Hampton Roads, only 170 have been flagged for audits because of errors in statements.

Even though they say the system is ready to go live, Navy officials stress if a resident has a problem with their bill, they can always go to the housing service center on base for help, and that no resident will ever be charged if their meter is determined to be the problem.