Corvias Military Living held a town hall meeting on Feb. 28 to explain the Live Army Green program for energy conservation and to answer concerns residents have about increases in their utility bills.
The 90-minute town hall was held at the Meuse Forest Neighborhood Center. Ninety residents and their families attended.
A second town hall, held March 1, was also streamed live on Corvias’ Facebook page through YouTube.
“I feel like all the information was useful,” said Cassie Wolf, a resident of Potomac Place. “We got a lot of good answers.”
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Cullen attended the event.
Scott Kotwas, business director for Corvias, and Lisa Poste, associate director for military operations for Minol, the private contractor responsible for utility billing, explained how the Live Army Green Program works.
Live Army Green is the Department of the Army’s mandated utility program for privatized military housing. The program’s goal is to save energy and provide rewards to military families who conserve energy and meet the requirements to qualify for a rebate.
Last year, the program at Fort Meade paid out $126,000 in utility rebates to customers.
Concerns About Billing
Kotwas also explained the DoD’s Privatized Housing Solar Challenge initiative, which began at Fort Meade in 2015. Through the program, solar panels were installed at more than 1,200 privatized homes on post.
Using a PowerPoint presentation, Kotwas addressed concerns that residents have had about increases in their utility bills.
Currently, 905 homes are in the Living Army Green program. Residents receive actual monthly statements, some of which are bills, and some no action (a statement of less than $25). Others receive a rebate.
About 112 homes are enrolled in “mock” billing, a process that enables residents to receive a statement each month that reflects their actual energy consumption in relation to those in their home grouping (homes of similar size and construction), but do not receive a bill or rebate.
Mock billing allows residents to monitor their energy consumption before they are rolled into live billing.
Thirty-four residents who receive actual bills contacted their neighborhood office to express concern. Some residents were concerned that their utility bills had increased because solar panels were installed on their homes.
As a result of the complaints, Corvias initiated in-home energy audits and a lifestyle review meeting with the residents. The audit included a review of their work-order history and a review of their energy consumption history.
Kotwas said that the matter has been resolved for 31 residents and that energy consumption for three other residents is still being researched.
As a result of the audit, Corvias found that some homes had mechanical-related issues that led to the increase in usage. Bad meters, maintenance concerns, extreme weather and personal habits were the other causes.
Kotwas said the audits did not find that the solar panels were responsible for the increase in energy usage.
Reinvesting Energy Savings
One important finding, however, was that a small number of BG&E electric meters were crossed with other homes. A random audit was done and all switched meters were corrected.
Minol recalculated those bill statements from the time they moved in.
Maureen Van Beisen, community management director for Corvias, said after the town hall that if a credit was deserved, it was paid. If money was owed by a resident, it was waived.
Van Beisen emphasized that the Live Army Green Program provides rebates as an incentive for military families who make an effort to conserve electricity and natural gas.
Kotwas said the money saved on overall utility costs are reinvested into the privatized housing program to sustain existing homes, renovate homes, and replace and build new homes.
After the town hall, representatives met with residents one-on-one to answer any additional questions or concerns.
Dedra Beasley of Patriot Ridge said she thought the town hall was helpful.
“It was good to hear and talk it [utility billing] over,” she said. “The information makes our living situation better.”