Are Military Families Victims of an Energy Scam?

Are Military Families Being Scammed by their on-base Energy Company?

Imagine this: you live in military base housing, where your service member’s paycheck is supposed to cover rent and “normal utility usage.” Then you receive an electric bill for $400. You have no idea why, so you contact the energy company. They say you must deal with your base housing management office. The Housing office tells you that everything at the house seems normal. So you cut back and conserve energy. The next month, your bill is even higher! You now owe almost $900, or an entire paycheck for many military families. When you complain, the Housing office says you must pay your bill, or be evicted within 3 days.

Sound like a nightmare? Unfortunately, for military families across the country, this is a reality.

What is the Resident Energy Conservation Program?

In 2012, the DoD instituted the Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP). The idea was to encourage military families to reduce their overall energy consumption. People pay more attention to their electricity use when it is metered and charged. Residents of base housing need to stay within the “grace zone” of similar sized homes in their neighborhood. The 10% grace zone is supposed to accommodate for different family sizes, non-energy efficient appliances, and unsealed doors or windows in older homes. If houses use 10% less than the average, they receive a credit. Any house more than 10% above average must pay out of pocket.

But the Resident Energy Conservation Program is not working.

For military families living on base, the Energy Conservation Program is NOT working! Click To Tweet

Families at military bases across the country are reporting absurdly high electricity bills. Most of the families are small: just 2 adults who spend all day outside the home, maybe 1 child. They live on base, in a small house that does not have air conditioning. A few times each week, they wash laundry and run the dishwasher. It is not possible for these families to be using $400 worth of electricity per month. So whose bills are they paying?

If you think $200+ isn’t a high energy bill, remember that these are military families living on base. Rent and utilities are automatically deducted from BAH, part of the military paycheck. The buffer zone means that the house has already used at least $100-150 in energy before the family is billed. So all billing amounts reported are on top of what a ‘normal’ house should use. Before 2012, military families living on base paid nothing for utilities. The military paycheck hasn’t changed much since 2012, just the way families are being billed.

I started an informal survey of families on my base, to see how widespread this problem is. The results shocked me. Within 1 afternoon, over 55 families reported what appears to be billing fraud. Most were at Camp Pendeleton, California, but there were also accounts of over-billing in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, 29 Palms, and military bases in Hawaii. And those are just the ones currently speaking up. Here are some of the problems.

Extreme Attempts at Energy Conservation

Military families are going to extreme lengths to reduce their energy usage. One family told me that they showered at the gym off base and turned off the breaker for their home during the day. Nevertheless, their bills were consistently around $400-$500 per month! Another family confessed to doing laundry at a Laundromat off-base, so they wouldn’t use the washer and dryer in their home. Other residents line-dry their clothes, or do laundry at a friend’s house. At our base in Southern California, most homes are not equipped with air conditioning. And the heat is only turned on a few months of the year. Even with a large family, none of these houses should be using much energy. If you need energy-saving plugs for your home, use the affiliate link below to purchase energy-reducing plugs and light bulbs.

Military families are showering at the gym, and still owing $400 energy bills! Click To Tweet

House Meters not Wired Correctly

One huge concern of the RECP is that base housing built in the 1960’s was not wired for individual electrical metering and billing. At least 2 families on our base discovered their house was wired to a public street lamp, which they were paying to run! Some people were paying their neighbor’s bill because the meters were crossed or mislabeled. Many base housing areas are condos or duplexes, which are not wired individually. An electrician who worked on our base to separate houses explained that the wires are not labeled, so he essentially guessed which house to assign them to. One resident received electric bills with blank usage data, which still listed an amount owed. When she started monitoring her own meter, she discovered that “my usage with my breaker box turned off was still higher than my attached neighbor’s when theirs was turned on.”

The Neighborhood Average is not Accurate

When RECP started in 2012, the ‘normal usage average’ was supposed to be compared to off-base neighborhoods. Instead, military families are now compared to other ‘like sized homes’ in their own neighborhood. As families have voluntarily conserved energy, the average has gone down, just as the program intended. The problem is that the average is still moving downward. Families with consistent monthly usage will see their bill continually increase. For homes in my category (5 bedrooms), the ‘monthly average’ has decreased from 850 kilowatt hours to 580 in the past year! That’s a 32% decrease, way more than the 20% goal of the DOD. The kWh that defined the “grace zone” last year would now cost $100/month!

The comparison to ‘like sized homes’ makes no accommodation for the family size in each home. Some 4-bedroom houses have 6 people living in them, others have only 3 people. Additional people mean extra showers, laundry, and dishes, as well as more electronic devices. The 10% grace zone buffer claims to accommodate for these differences, as well as different types of insulation and different types of appliances. But that clearly doesn’t add up. A 10% difference from 5 people is… 4.5 people.

Empty units are not supposed to be used in monthly average calculations. However, many people in duplexes find that when neighbors move out, their bill goes way down. When new neighbors move in, the bill usage doubles. Multiplex units may still be wired together. Conversely, when there are numerous empty houses on their street, some residents see their bills double, because the average appears to be affected.

The Resident Energy Conservation Program hurts #milfams Click To Tweet

Bills are INCREASING when families aren’t home

Numerous families are reporting billing inconsistencies that occurred while they were out of the house. During deployment or leave blocks, families may leave a house vacant for a month. Many families told me that they saw their supposed energy use increase while they were away, even though they were careful to unplug everything before leaving.

  • “Our bill was once over $500 when we were on leave (not in the house) for the whole month.”
  • “We left town for Christmas last year, and our reported usage DOUBLED.”
  • “We went out of town for the month and received a bill for $120.”
  • “We were out of state for a month. When we came home, the bill was $200.”
  • “I was gone a month last year. Came home to a $400 bill.”
  • “I’m completely out of town for the month of December, and the bill shows my usage going up right now.”
  • “We had plane tickets receipts to prove that we weren’t there, but our usage went up and nothing was done.”
  • “When I went to work last year, no one was home all day, but our usage went up.”
  • “Our bill was over $200 when my husband was gone in the field for most of the month. It was just me at home.”
  • “Housing found that electrical usage in our home spiked from Midnight- 7 AM, when we were sleeping.”

Military Families are Trapped

Officially, there are two ways to handle a high bill problem: contact the energy company to survey your meter, and contact Housing to survey your home usage. Unfortunately, at least half of the families I interviewed who requested a survey never heard back from the energy company or Housing office. On our base, the Energy Management Company is YES Energy. The Housing companies are Lincoln Military Housing and Hunt. These companies manage energy and housing on military bases across the country.

  • 1 wife reported calling the office every day for 2 weeks, but never having a home visit. She wasn’t alone:
  • “Housing did nothing. We called and they said they would send someone out the next day. It has been 16 days, and nothing has happened.”
  • “We called twice to have it looked into. Both times no one showed up.”
  • “I’ve tried to get YES Energy out here, but they never show.”
  • “Lincoln didn’t do anything until our bill was over $600. Then they said it was accurate and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
  • “Housing promised to investigate, then did not show up.”
  • “We have talked to YES Energy and Housing. They both gave us the runaround. Nothing has changed at my house.”
  • “I called and filled out a survey… Still haven’t heard anything.”
  • “My husband has talked to the Head of Housing multiple times and filed a complaint with the inspector general of NCIS. Nothing has come of it.”
  • “We’ve been fighting them for months. No progress. We are moving.”

Most families who were lucky enough to receive a follow-up visit said that the review didn’t change anything. In a few cases, the electric company determined the home was wired to a street lamp or another house. One unfortunate family was told by Housing that their home meter seemed to be ‘unusual’, and the findings would be reported to YES Energy. Attempts to follow up with YES or the Housing Office have been unsuccessful, as they have been told for the past month that the relevant people are “not at their desk” and “will follow up with them.” Meanwhile, their bills for the past 3 months now total $700, and they face eviction from a house with potentially faulty meter numbers.

In most cases, Housing was not helpful, and told families their high bill was caused by trivial items, like night lights, Scentsy warmers, or fans. Several residents who requested an energy-efficient refrigerator or dishwasher were denied. Some residents were told that based on comparable homes, they would literally have to keep all lights off, or they would be billed. One resident was told if they replaced their electric dryer with a gas dryer, their bills would be less than $300. “Since we have gotten a gas dryer, the bills haven’t gone down.”

Eviction Threats from Housing

The Housing office is not helping residents to resolve their billing issues. Instead, they are blaming the energy company and making military families victims. Ten families told me they received eviction notices from the Housing Office because of their energy bill. Eviction from military base housing is serious, because it means the family is unable to live on base again. Most families living on base are here because they can’t afford to live on the local economy around San Diego.

In all ten cases, the Housing Office only gave residents 3 DAYS to pay the bill or be evicted. One family received 2 monthly bills for $500. They did not have $1,000, so the Housing office told them to get a loan. I was surprised that in almost every case, the military family paid the bill. 3 days is not enough time to pursue legal options. However, in the state of California, it is illegal to give less than 30 days notice of eviction from a residential property.

Military Families with suspicious energy bills are receiving Eviction Threats from the base Housing Office

Service Members are Afraid to Speak Up

Military families facing these high energy bills and eviction threats feel like they have nowhere to turn. I asked several families if they had spoken with the service member’s chain of command. Surprisingly, most said no. In fact, the Housing Office was threatening families that they would contact the chain of command if the bills were not paid. Service members living in government housing have a very fine line between professional and personal matters. Apparently, many military families feel that describing their situation to their command would make them appear professionally incompetent.

However, when I mentioned the situation to our chain of command, they immediately saw the problem of corporations preying on military members. The unit commander is on the side of his service members. He suggested that suffering families take legal action by filing ICE reports and going to the Base Commander. One family who finally did contact their military chain of command was relieved when the service member’s officers accompanied him to the Housing Office and through the home inspection. Getting the chain of command involved was a successful way to delay his eviction notice.

Contact your chain of command if your energy bills are suspiciously high. #RECP Click To Tweet

The Numbers Don’t Make Sense

Residents would not mind paying for energy they actually use. The frustration occurs when the numbers can’t be explained. Military families are being strong-armed into paying high bills. Then, the issue resolves, and it is another family’s turn. Some situations described as ‘magical’ look like potential billing fraud:

  • “When we first moved in, the mock billing showed we didn’t owe anything. The first month it switched to real billing, we suddenly owed more than $200 per month.”
  • “Our bill was $600 and we were threatened with eviction. Once we paid it, it magically went down and hasn’t been as high since.”
  • “My bills were $300 a month. After we paid they went down to $15. And we started using 2 more fans since then.”
  • “Our bills were over $200 a month. When they reached $600 we had to pay. Lo and behold, they magically went down after that.”
  • “We had to pay $534, but after we talked to Housing, our next bill was only $36.”
  • “We pay every month, even though we try to conserve. But our neighbor in the same size house has more children, runs the TV all day, leaves lights on, and always receives a refund check. That doesn’t make sense!”
  • “On base, we were charged over $200 per month, which we couldn’t afford. We moved off base and now pay less than $100 per month, using our lights and appliances more often!”
  • “We were paying over $150/month being very conservative. Finally I gave up and started leaving lights on and doing laundry all the time. Now we only pay $56. It makes no sense.”
  • “The more I leave things running, the lower our bill is. It’s rigged.”
  • “Our bills were always over $200. After contacting Housing, filling out a survey, and never getting an answer, we stopped caring. We leave the lights on when we’re gone, and the TV on all day. Now our bills are down to $50. What I’ve learned is that the more energy you use, the less your bill is.”

The RECP has become a disaster for military families. Instead of being motivated to voluntarily conserve energy, families are now learning that the more you use, the less you pay. Something is wrong, and military families need legal assistance to defend themselves. The families are tired of being ignored and not getting answers.

It is unacceptable that military families in base housing are caught as helpless victims between the Housing Office and the energy management company. If old wiring and faulty meters are causing energy problems for the base, military families should not have to foot the bill. Instead, the government should investigate their contracts with YES energy, Lincoln Military Housing, and Hunt to see where and how costs can be reduced.

Our concerns made the local news!

Thanks to your comments and actions, this story was reported on several news channels in December. You can see me on an interview with our local news channel here. Let’s keep raising our voices. Talk to your chain of command. Talk to your base leadership. Unite with other families in your neighborhood to monitor meters and get an accurate baseline for what is ‘normal usage.’ The more information you have, the more change you can bring. You can also contact your local representatives and Congressional leadership. To see more actionable ways to solve this problem, see my follow-up article here.
CBS News 8 – San Diego, CA News Station – KFMB Channel 8

Are there energy billing concerns on your base? Please leave a comment below.

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Thoughts or comments? I want to hear from you!

  1. This has been happening to us! Our bill was always a credit and suddenly when we were in Florida for 3 months and my husband was deployed, our bill went UP and we got a significantly less amount back as credit. We have 2 kids and 1 income. There’s no way we can afford a space large enough in town PLUS utilities in San Diego along with other life needs. We can’t even afford a sitter or daycare! 🙁

    • I hear you, I’m so sorry this is happening to your family. Have you contacted the energy company and Housing yet? What about your husband’s chain of command? It seems the only way things will change is if we keep pushing the information up higher. Please keep me updated!

      • Hi! I lost theverything link so I couldn’t update until now! I caped at the beginning of February when I looked at our bill and realized they were charging us the same amount as regular electricity for energy our solar panels generated. I still have not had a call or anyone at our home to check anything. I’m curious if we are being charged for the porch light on our front door that we don’t control. It’s not outrageous but it says we used about 408kwh this month. My husband and I are talking but he’s not sure if he should try his COC or if we should report it to the base commander like my parents have suggested. They are retired Air Force. I’ve seen a few spouses talk of an investigation at Pendleton with Lincoln. I’m not sure if that has to do with their absurd nickel and dime move out inspections or YES Energy Management though. Either way this housing contract is taking advantage of military families all over. Especially when they are the only option. It’s sickening.

        • I’m sorry to hear you are caught up in this energy struggle, but I appreciate you sharing your issues. There are a few things you can do:
          1. Track your average monthly usage and look for anything unusual. Does it remain the same when you are out of town? Does it spike for no reason?
          2. Compare notes with neighbors. Your bill is being averaged against like-sized homes in your neighborhood, so get on the neighborhood Facebook page and start comparing bills with similar sized homes and families. Is 408 kWh normal in that neighborhood?
          3. Don’t hesitate to advance your concerns to the COC or base commander. However, be aware that they cannot do anything without detailed factual evidence. So take monthly photos of your electric meter and compare them to the reported usage on your bill. Unplug everything in your home except the fridge and see how much the meter is still running. Continue to demand an energy survey if you think something is amiss. Once you are armed with evidence of something wrong, then go ahead and report.
          Thanks again for stopping by. and I wish you luck!

  2. This happened to us at Ft. Stewart, GA. I kept requesting the energy survey from housing (Balfour Beaty) but no one ever came out, even when it was scheduled. The people at YES always just told me I need to talk to my housing office.

    We have since PCS’ed but due to the issues we had with the housing office and energy we will never live on base again.

    • Lisa, thank you for sharing. I’m sorry your family went through this! Even worse is that it has affected your openness to ever living on base again. I can totally understand that. For the most part, we have had positive experiences living on base at a few places. But if energy bills affect your quality of life, you obviously don’t want to go through that again. I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  3. This is also happening at the housing for PNSY in Portsmouth, NH/ Kittery, ME. We lived there for 2 years and i can not tell you how many families were fighting this battle.. and how many just paid the astronomical amounts month after month. A BBB search will open eyes to the ratings of “Yes energy management.”

    • Val, thank you for sharing that! Do you know if anything was done about the problem? Did military leadership get involved? It seems this is a problem on way too many bases, and needs to be addressed higher up!

      • I recently spoke with the RECP rep at navy housing and she assured me that she and the PPV and another person went through every single bill for several months, while everyone went back into mock billing, to find the problem in Kittery and they are working with residents. Not sure if they are still having issues but at least they are willing to look at the facts.

  4. We regularly paid $300-$450 electric bills in San Diego. I had them do a survey and they said everything was fine – we just needed to conserve.

    • That’s so frustrating when they tell you it’s fine, and you can see that it obviously is not! I think the next step is involving base comanders and Congressmen. Thank you for sharing!

  5. We didn’t live on base when we were stationed in Hawaii but did live on an old Navy Base which the company for electricity is Yes Energy……we always had crazy high bills and some people were getting bills for over $1000. We never had consistency so budgeting was a nightmare. I couldn’t pay the entire electric bill for a few months as the bills were so high and I needed to feed my family. I would pay my rent but they would put your money towards electric before rent so we got a nice 3 day eviction notice as well. I sure hope something can be done to help families out so people aren’t barely getting by and can stop worrying about what they do I’m there own home and how it will effect there bill.

    • I’m so sorry to hear you went through that! 🙁 Yes, there are some definite problems. I hope that bringing attention to the issue will prevent future families from going through that!

  6. Seymour Johnson AFB has just started the program here. October was the first month of our “mock billing” and there is too much of a variation across the base, even taking into account the different home “profiles.” By the time we got our first mock bill, we were already half way through November before we had a clue about our usage to even make adjustments. December is our last mock bill and January will be the first billing period we will be responsible for which is the coldest month here. I created our account online and have been monitoring our daily usage and it’s hard to get below the estimated allotment. Something isn’t right about this whole program. I’m praying that we can reduce our financial burden due to the energy bill we are anticipating having to pay until the hubby can retire in the next year and a half.

    • Thank you for sharing the problems on Seymour Johnson AFB. I’m glad your husband is near retirement, but the problem will remain for any families who use that house. Please keep a close eye on your bill, follow up with any inconsistencies, and contact your chain of command if the bills are unusually high.

      • I agree. I have been monitoring our meters in a smaller neighborhood and they are all over the place. Without consistent up to date data as yes energy states they do daily at midnight this is a serious problem. People going out of town and shutting power off is a huge issue as well and leads to lower than ‘normal’ averages which messes with those in winter time actually living in their homes. Our particular units are 1940’s with zero insulation in walls and cold seeps in from everywhere. I found that at 68 my personal Hvac system jumps into auxiliary mode and have found the same with about 4 other units testing this theory. Also homes are not alike in same like groups. Some stay easily at 70 and mine never goes above 68 unless it’s extremely sunny and warm out. Approach your office and explain to them what you consider normal and keep a diligent log of every bit of energy you are using in your home. It is the only way they will take you seriously. I was told after taking it up the chain of command to base CO and Navy housing these are the rules and that’s the way it is. Unfortunately Your PPV is the only person that might be on your side if you can show you are not abusing power and just living in your home. I have personally done one for one testing with an under reporting meter and that Home ran half of everything in my home. Even water heaters. After lowering my water heater temp I’m still well above the avg daily. Sadly it is Not possible to stay within the ‘10% zone’ recp set. Water heater in my home runs 3 kw no mater what I have it set at so we are outside the 10% goal just by having to wash ourselves, 4 children and clothes and dishes for above over a family of 3 one of those being a baby in many cases in this neighborhood. Good Luck and try and track everything. It’s going to take diligence on your part checking your meter after every shower, dishwasher run and washer and dryer. Kee track of it all by viewing your meter after running each appliance and see if it’s consistent! Hope that helps

        • Thanks, this is really good advice. The more details and specific data you collect, the more effective you will be talking to Housing and YES Energy. It takes neighborhood cooperation to get the best comparison and results. Thanks for reading through and offering so much good advice here!

  7. Same in Groton, CT. Yes Energy Management teamed up with Balfour Beatty(A company based in England to handle our military housing?) Energy bills here are all wonky as well. For instance, our gas usage was unusually high in May, June, July, and August… and no, we don’t run the heat in the middle of the summer. No answer as to why our electric and gas bills were so high. What I do know is, a ton of families moved out during this timeframe and there were several empty houses the size of mine… You do the math.

    • Imagine the impact those empty homes have on your bills. Point this out to housing and have them and you go over the math. If you are in a smaller like group and only a few people are left in moving season then they are automatically saving energy by not having to pay for those homes. Your bill will most likely go up because like size group you are averaged against went down. If a few people are out of town guess what their bills will be much lower and thus the average will be lower than ‘normal’ and thus you will go higher if you are truest living in your home. If you Point these facts out and take verified data you collect to housing they will must likely try and help you. You need to monitor your meter after every shower, dishwasher run and washer and dryer to see their usage. Also track what temps your ac/heater are set on. It all goes to show you are not abusing your power and can help them make a decision to help you. Also look up your allotment that is built into your BAH for utilities. Ours is 21% that’s a huge difference between what is paid for my husbands rank and what we actually consume. PPV’s are making serious money off this program and our BAH which is to include our normal usage of utilities.

  8. Thank you for writing this. We are having issues here in Chesapeake, VA as well with yes energy and the housing office. It’s been over 6 months since I’ve heard anything from them. Definitely nice to know that I can take this further if I need to.

    • Good, I’m glad you are encouraged by this! Yes, this is a widespread problem. Military leadership probably has no idea that it affects so many families. So we have to speak up and tell them! Please be a listener and a voice for your community. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  9. How about living on base, paying $200 a month, in a neighborhood where solar panels were installed a year ago but “aren’t ready”. We have lived here for 3 years and the whole neighborhood got solar panels on our houses a year ago. Apparently they aren’t operational at this time and the electric bills just get higher.

    • What?! That is horrible! Installing solar panels was supposed to be step 2 of the “greening of military bases.” The cost saving is supposed to be shared among all the neighborhood families.
      It hasn’t started yet on our base, and it is disappointing to hear that it is ineffective at yours. What can be done to make the panels start working? Who can you contact?
      I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing. Please keep me updated!

      • I live at Bliss, the neighbors behind us have solar panels, half of my street does not and the rest of the South side of the neighborhood does not. The worker told me the solar panels are on back order (it’s been a year and a half) and they would not even benefit the residents. The solar panels are to help out main post. My neighbor with the solar panels said that she owed every month since they have been installed but it was less than 50$.
        Every time we leave town are electric bill go’s up to were we owe money.

        • I don’t mind if the solar panels help the main post, since they are the ones who paid to install them.
          But the fact that the electric bill goes UP when you aren’t in the house is very suspicious to me.

          • I’d suggest turning off your power at the source and see if your bill goes down or not. If not something may have been wired into something that goes to your home!!!

  10. Ever since moving to Belvoir, our energy bill has been suspicious to us. Sometimes it is only $12, other times it’s as much as $80, and we can’t figure out why, especially because neighbors of ours with the exact same size family and house have never paid a bill the entire time they’ve lived here. It makes perfect sense that there’s a scam going on.

  11. No one is home during the day, I live at JBAB AFB and my bill was $138 last month. We are very conservative with what we have plugged in and when we turn on lights. It seems ridiculous to me. I’m scared to see this months bill will be. Especially around Christmas. We don’t have extra money to spend on an electric bill that is higher than normal.

    • That is so frustrating. It shouldn’t be that high at all. Start with Housing and the energy management company to see if there is anything wrong with your meter. Then keep good records, and start voicing up the chain of command.

  12. We just moved here towards late end of August. My husband signed for our house Aug1st, we officially moved in the 16th. Before he left to return to benning he put the A/C at the highest possible setting and fixed any electrical things (ie fridge) to ensure lowest amount of electricity. We moved in and I’m an electricity nazi due to owning a home and being hit with ridiculous high bills. Well our 1st bill was high and we owed $40 (not much but why if we weren’t in the house with nothing on for half the month!) We asked and all we were told was well it takes a lot to run the fridge and dishwasher…ummmm no one lived in the house!!! Second bill high again, I’m serious I walk around and shut everything off, unplug everything it’s habit high bill again. Asked again was told Oh we take the average of the neighborhood and that’s how we decide who has to pay. To me that still doesn’t make sense! Something is really not right! Why am I frugal with my electric and keep my heat/ac at recommended or lower/higher and have to pay a bill for someone who keeps their house like Hawaii Temps and keeps everything plugged in?! Frustrating!

    • Yes, I understand how frustrating that is! The purpose of the program is energy conservation, but it sounds like you are doing that, and still being penalized!

    • Have you checked your meter to see if it is still turning when your shut off the power for an hour or two. Also track everything your use and present to housing for a review by their electrician to see if they look normal!

  13. Pingback: Congressman Issa looking into outrageous Camp Pendleton electricity bills - USMC Life

  14. We are having the same problem here in SD. It is positively a scam. My power bill for sitting here in the dark, with no heat or ac on is an average of $85 over the ” average usage” every month. Where the neighbors on either side of me run every appliance, and tv, and keep all the lights on day and night, and are getting checks back. I went to the housing office after being out of town for most of the month, a while back, and returning home to a $100 power bill, and the ever so helpful people of Lincoln Military housing claimed it was because I left the fridge plugged in. HUH?! My friend who lives in Lakeside military housing has solar panels on her roof and still gets billed. Can anyone explain to me how someone living in So. California, can have solar panels on a tiny 3 bedroom place and still be using more than the allotted power usage?! I shared your artical around a few places, including Pres. Elect Donald Trump’s Facebook page. I hope you don’t mind, I just want this scam to end.

    • Jenn, sorry to hear that you are going through this. The high bills on houses that are empty most of the month are what concern me and indicate that there is a bigger problem.
      I don’t mind you sharing the link. In fact, I appreciate it! I hope you will also contact Congressman Issa’s office and share your concern. He has set up a page for families directly affected by unusual energy bills. Go to http://www.Issa.house.gov. In the subject line, write “Electricity Billing.” They need to hear from affected families, because there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the issue.

    • Have you checked your meter? If not find it and see what you are tracking per day and night. If the numbers change greatly then show them to housing and then take it to your chain of command and or an electrician. There are units to track usage available if nothing changes connect one to your personal electrical box and monitor your usage. From my research I run 3 kw for water heater usage, 3 for dishes and 3 and 4 for washer and dryer, not the most modern versions. Your ac and heater are going to run much higher but if you do some research and check amps you can find out what they add up to for usage as well. If things don’t add up at the end of the month have housing check that your meter isn’t attached to someone else’s power. We have similar issues in our neighborhood with people on one daisy being comfortable and others freezing in winter and receiving bills. Can’t wait for summer to see the extremes we have to take to stay within the avgerage. I will continue to watch this neighborhood as all meters are available for viewing in our courtyards/i.e. Public space. It is very easy to see when people are out of town and or they have low reading meters. Getting someone to listen is another story. Start with your PPV and military housing RECP rep.

  15. We had this issue the year before we left Fort Hood. They claimed that they lowered the baseline. Our first few years there, if we went over, it was by a few dollars, though we genre went under. The last year and a half, we were paying almost $100, even though we used all of their “energy efficient tips”. ? We talked to the electric company who told us to call housing/maintenance. We fought for almost a year trying to get them to come out to do an energy audit. They never showed up to their appointments, and I stupidly gave up due to having a baby and then prepping for our move.

    Key example, Christmas 2014, we were gone the entire month of December. We had everything unplugged and turned off. We still got a bill saying we went over. When I called about it, the guy claimed that he could see on the chart for our usage that we went over before we left. ? Later on down the road, when I asked for a report like that, the techs said they didn’t have the ability to tell me exact usage. ?
    As I said, we used all of their “energy efficient tips”, such as keeping off lights, raising the thermostat to 78+ in the summer…in Texas, keeping things unplugged if not in use. Nothing helped! Talking to two sets of neighbors, (the ones attached to our duplex and the one not), revealed they were far from energy efficient, and they still received a check each month. ? One said she kept her house in the 60’s during the summer and the 70’s during the winter! We burned and froze our tails off, respectively, trying to be energy efficient. At least now that we are in Germany, we don’t have to worry about utilities, (except no A/C in the summer and we have to wait until they turn on the heaters in the winter).

    • I’m sorry to hear you struggled with this, too! It seems like a widespread issue, and simply isn’t fair. Even though you have moved on, the family living in your previous house is probably facing the same issue now.
      I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your story. I hope that if you have this problem again when you return stateside that you will continue to persue answers from base officials and military leadership.

    • Did you ever personally turn off power at source and check your own meter and neighbors? Sounds like they were cross wired. I would check with that former neighbor to see if her bill changed the same way as your out of town trips took place. If so you have a case! They can assure us they did all these tests to make sure that things were rewired correctly but that doesn’t mean meter data isn’t connected to the wrong unit! They could easily crosswire those and youd never be able to see it.

  16. I think it’s ridiculous that you have to get a commanding officer involved before the electric company and civilian run housing will take action to help our Service Member and families. However, I hope every Service Member and spouse will take this to their chain of command and I wish for each commander to go to the base/post Garrison Commander. I know the typical SM does not want to bring this sort of thing to their command, but this is not right. The electric company/housing will continue to take advantage and be apathetic until we force them to change. They are only concerned about their bottom line.

  17. Pingback: Facts and Data: Why Camp Pendleton's Energy Conservation Program is broken - Kristine Speaks

  18. So this is happening in Hquarters on Norfolk Naval Station. I walked the neighborhood and took pics of all meters and again a week later, found 4 meters offline. Will be investigated very soon as we are preparing a report to base XO and region ADM but that certainly is going to be messing with the averages. I encourage anyone that has the same issues to do the same. Once one goes offline or reports low it lowers the averages. We also had several receiving the exact average each month for 6 months. Lincoln housing assured us someone comes out quarterly to fix issues. We are a small neighborhood, only 24 like homes in two types of groups. So it’s seriously impacting our averages. And yes those folks are indeed receiving refunds. Thank God my neighbors were nice enough to cooperate and let me see their bills!

    • That’s a great strategy. I think the only way to combat it is with factual data gathered from multiple families. Our base started a private FB page where families can take pictures of their meters and share their bills. When you see the facts from like-sized hones in your group, it is much easier to convince Housing or the base that their is a problem. Thank you for sharing! Your efforts will be so helpful to the families in your neighborhood. Keep up the good work!

  19. yes, I been in san diego housing our bill goes anywhere between 199 to 365. 2 bedroom apat no A/C or any out of the ordinary appliances. I’ve spoken to housing several times, and they suggest we should pay. I’ve used a very colorful language and told them we won’t until they fix this. I will probably sue them.

    • Thank you Cathy! I encourage you to follow any political options : call and write to your representatives, contact local mayors and policy-makers, call up any contacts you have. Thanks for stopping by!

  20. We caught the very beginning of this when we were @ NAWS China Lake, Ridgecrest CA 2013-2014. Our energy was all over the place. I couldn’t keep it in line and we had a single family house. Billed whatever they averaged out and we were told that big houses, empty houses, whatever, are all under the averaging. We were on the heels of retirement so we paid and bolted. But no you never get a straight answer and the bills never make sense. And our poor maintenance guy who can’t do a darn thing was always the fall guy standing trying to explain this nonsense. Poorly I might add. Because he was just the middle man. YES energy is a screwjob and a half! Ridiculousness. And Lincoln is allowing it.

  21. This has been happening to my husband and I since living in Monterey, CA at fort Ord. Then we moved to Fort Meade and the same thing started happening here too. It’s been JUST me and my husband!!!!! TWO PEOPLE!!!!! We noticed after moving into a home for the first year 8 to 12 months we would stay under usage. Then all of a sudden our bill would just automatically jump well above what our previously reported usage has been. We hve always been given a 3 to 4 bedroom home even though it has been just my husband and I. We are supposed to get compared to like size homes. Usually in a 3 to 4 bedroom home there would be more people then just 2. My husband being gone majority of the week and myself being gone part time, or when home only using minimal electricity. Our neighbor in the same exact house as us, four children…. got a refund and some how we got a $200 something bill with just the two of us.
    We recalled several times we were gone for a month and then had a bill. We would call housing and say how????? We were gone!! Anytime a house like size that sat vacant on our street, we would brace ourselves for an overage. Even though they claim to take the house out of the comparisison for that month, I don’t believe that to be true.

    Our most recent overage bill was a little over $300. A two bedroom home on base that we moved into thinking we could start to save money. Two people, one who works full time and myself who often was not home. We had families with children around us and we some home used more then everyone else.

    We have had them come and check out our meter and they tell us everything is fine. We have gone to length of making sure things are unplugged if not in use. We have had an auditor come through our home an measure the amount of energy we are pulling by looking at what we have plugged in, how many tvs we have, etc. no explanation why our bill had been so high.

    We are being robbed!!! Taken advantage of! I’m tired of it!

    • Chemae, thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience with this problem. I’m sorry to hear that it is affecting you and your husband, but now you know that you are not the only ones suffering from this problem! Have you tried different solutions with Housing, energy company, chain of command, base RECP representative, etc? Have you requested an energy audit for your home? It may take some work and some personal records on your part to track your usage and take pictures of your meter, but the more information you have, the more likely you are to reach a solution. I wish you luck with the next steps!

  22. I’ve found (in Quantico at least) the more energy you use, the less you will owe.
    We did an experiment last year (2016) where one month we left lights on when we left, put the AC down low in the 60’s, TV on, radio on, did laundry multiple times daily, etc. and received a credit. The next month, we unplugged TV, toaster, radios, coffee maker, and the like, when not in use, turned all lights off when not in use, put the AC at housings “recommended” temperature, and we owed a TON (somewhere near $200).
    We’ve gone back to the “careless” usage, although not as extreme, and we are always in the grace zone or receive a credit.
    Definitely backwards and makes no sense.

    • That is so interesting. I’ve heard that same experience repeated anecdotally, but it’s cool that you took the time to do it as a consistent experiment. It is backwards and makes no sense, but it must have to do with the neighborhood averages. Thank you for sharing your experience here!

  23. This is happening to military families in Monterey. We have only lived in housing for about 2 months, and haven’t received a bill yet, (I hear it takes 4 months for your bills to catch up to you,) but when I posted on our local military family page to find out what people were paying before we moved into housing, I had a ton of comments from people with situations EXACTLY like those in the above article.
    I am frankly scared out of my mind to receive that first bill, since we are a family of 7, and I do 1-2 loads of dishes, and 2-3 loads of laundry a day just to stay afloat.
    There is no way we can compete usage wise with a family of 3 or 4.

  24. This happened to us when we lived in Murphy Canyon base housing in San Diego. We moved in and mock billing had us owing nothing. Live billing started and suddenly our bills were $30-50 per month and our usage had not changed. I called Lincoln and the maintenance manager came out to do a survey, but even he said he could find nothing to cause the overages. He blamed my chest freezer at first, but then they gave me a new supposedly energy efficient fridge and I got rid of the chest freezer and my bills were still over. I placed numerous calls to YES and Lincoln. They stopped returning my calls. I finally got my husband’s command involved. (Did I mention we were a family of 2 and my husband was deployed, so it was just me using energy every day?!) My husband’s XO got involved and sent me the contact info for the Navy’s RECP liaison, who called me the next day. Before I could even gather enough info for the liaison, my bills suddenly changed and I was under. Very sneaky. They never said what was causing my overages since I told them I had not once changed my usage the entire two years I lived there. Before I was in contact with my husband’s XO and the RECP liaison, I had done my own leg work. I tracked my meter readings every day to make sure they corresponded with the readings on my billing statements. I also turned off all the breakers in my breaker box and determined exactly what each one controlled and how much energy each thing in my house used. The biggest drain was my refrigerator and the bathroom light/fan combo switches. We have since moved from San Diego and are in base housing in Patuxent River, Maryland. I expected to have problems here, but we have been under every single month except December, since we moved in over a year ago. The local energy company just changed out the meters though, so we shall see…I know there are families here that are consistently over no matter how much they conserve.

    • Jodie, thank you for sharing. That seems identical to some of the problems here. Good for you sticking with it and exploring different options to solve the problem.

  25. This is a scam. As if Servicemembers and their families don’t get screwed over enough already. Go to legal assistance to complain. Then get your state attorney general involved, maybe the threat of a class action lawsuit will end this. Also file a Congressional. AND go to your local media and file complaints with Washington Post. The government is notoriously horrible with its PR responses.

    • Thank you Tami! Yes, the only way to fix it is to pursue legal and political solutions. I have been encouraging affected families to contact NCIS on base, as well as their local and national Representatives. Our base has already contacted local media, and we had 3 different news stations cover the story in December. The more noise we make, the more efforts will be put into resolving this problem. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

      • Has anyone looked into initiating a class action suit? It seems like this would be the direction to take this.

        • We haven’t yet. There was some talk with the Legal Office on base, but it hasn’t come to anything yet, mostly because officially the base says that nothing is wrong and that all the examples are extreme and anecdotal. Plus, families who are currently active duty are hesitant to come forward for a law suit that may affect the service member’s career. It’s a very hard sell.

  26. I really liked your article. There are quite a few things service-members can do after they have ascertained that something is amiss and have proof:
    -Like you said, contact the COC and/ or base commander.
    -ICE complaints.
    -Request mast.
    -Submit a grievance to their congressman or woman.
    -Go to local media.

    Definitely don’t just take it! Those dealing with this need to speak up. I can guarantee that a competent COC will work in the best interests of the service-member.

  27. Apparently we got very lucky in Mugu but I did see many families on the FB page complaining about their crazy bills. We usually paid between $30-$50 a month but there was also 3 people home all day and 5 in the evenings. Two of my kids home schooled so they were home with me with at least 2 computers going all day as well as radios and whatever I was doing during the day. We felt we were doing well with the charges so we never complained. Again, other families did who lived in housing Mugu, Hueneme and in Camarillo. All I can say is I sure wish I was o KY paying $50 as that bill has gone up significantly since my husband has retired and we are now in the civilian world. I sure hope something gets solved with this as it is disgusting and criminal but also, y’all be ware when you get out and no longer live in housing, you will be getting the while bill. Our $50 went to $200 with another $100-$150 in gas as well.

    • Thank you Cassandra, you make a really good point. Yes, civilian bills are obviously higher and that s important to keep in mind. The difference is that BAH is calculated to include average energy bills in your area. Military families who live off base should not pay rent exactly equal to their BAH. They should be able to find something below the BAH rate, so that utility bills will still be covered by BAH. On base, all of the BAH is deducted automatically, even though the houses are not worth that much in ‘rent’ because the rest is applied towards the average energy usage.

  28. JBAB same thing. Just my husband and myself and we always, ALWAYS, got refunds as we are very frugal with our energy needs & we liked getting that refund. We take energy conservation seriously so why all of a sudden did we start getting bills ? I brought it uo several times on our community pages but arguing amonst each other always ensues between the people who are getting bills & others who are not getting big bills lecturing how to conserve “right”. I basically gave up and chaulked it up as another one of those ‘You are a military family and you have no control over anything they want to do to you ‘!

    • At Fort Campbell they can hack into the new thermostats as well. Came home one day in January and mine was changed to cool instead of heat. When you know your doing things that should make a difference only to get a more than doubled bill from last month you know something is up.

  29. Definitely happinning in Norfolk Virginia! Lived in base housing 6 years… through the no bill phase, the mock bill phase, and the real bill phase. When we started getting bills I thought they were high, but had no proof. Then my husband deployed and I went to visit my family for a couple months leaving the house vacant except for my once a month weekend trips to check on it… bills were $300 a month! I stopped paying and started calling Lincoln and yes energy… had an energy audit “don’t leave your front porch light on”… called yes energy “Lincoln had to do it”… called Lincoln “yes energy had to do it”… finally… about 6 months into the deployment… by a stroke of luck someone came to check the meter…”your meter was switched with your neighbors”… they did cancel my bill which was well over $1000 by now… but my neighbors got to pocket the refund I was owed all that time… the month after the meters were switched my neighbors moved out… probably because they got a huge bill from yes energy! Fast forward… I’ve moved out of base housing and pay $100 a month for a bigger house! It was a load of bull!

    • Wow, stories like this make me so angry! I’m all for energy conservation, but when the base has faulty wiring and isn’t set up to bill homes individually, then military families shouldn’t be the ones to suffer at the hands of private contractors. I’m glad your wiring was finally fixed, but how many more homes have the same problem and are simply paying because they don’t think they have any other choice???

  30. We are a family of 9 and our home is compared to families of 4 & 3. People are getting checks back for $100+ and we are paying over $100 a month in overages. I have asked for meter checks and have gotten nothing.

    • Corrine, I’m sorry this is happening to your family. If you are not getting any response about meter checks, continue to follow up with Housing, the energy company, and the base RECP representative.
      It’s possible that your large family is simply using more than the average allowance. I understand–we are a family of 6. Just doing laundry and baths for our family uses more than the average for a 4-bedroom home. We are lucky that our current base gave us a 5-bedroom home, but I realize these are rare. If we were in a 4-bedroom, we would be paying extra every month.

  31. This has happen to my family. We lived in the Gateway Military Community in San Diego. We were paying $200-$300 a month on our electricity bill. We didn’t run our air conditioner, all lights were off, no one was home during the day. We polled individuals with same like units and many ran their air conditioners 24/7. These individuals stated that most often they received credits. I started making calls to every person I could and started receiving a zero balance. That only lasted for a month or two. We decided to move off base in a two bedroom apartment and low and behold our light bill on average was $80. We actually saved money for the first time. Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Management is ripping military families off.

    • Ugh, this story is being repeated way too often. On one hand, I’m happy that you were able to follow up and make phone calls to get the bills reduced. On the other hand, it’s extremely suspicious that the high bills can be fixed with phone calls and paperwork adjustment. That seems to demonstrate that the high bills are falsely generated in the first place.
      You’re right about the off-base bills being lower. In many places, military families on base are charged more per kWh than civilians living in the local area.

  32. My husband was deployed and myself and kids went back home for the summer (2 months). I am anal so every light was off, water turned off to toilets, every appliance minus fridge unplugged, and A/C set to 80 ( temp never reached 100 that year so 80 was sufficient since it stays 20° cooler in your home) you name it I prepared it for our absence. We come home to a $300 electric bill….i called housing, they told me pay it or move out!! I proved I wasn’t home for 2 months and they still said we used that energy and had to pay it…YES THIS PROCESS IS A SCAM!!! I bought a home at next duty station that is 1000sgft larger and have never used as much energy as they say we did on post!!

    • Wow, that is so frustrating! And you are certainly not the first one who has experienced that. It’s horrible. Until neighbors band together to inform housing, NCIS, local and national Representatives, and the military leadership, I don’t think it is likely to change. If you hear complaints on your next post, please lend an ear and share your story with them.

  33. We are having the exact same problem here at Ft. Bliss in Texas with Yes Energy. We had our home “surveyed” multiple times and of course it was all “normal”. I started turning off my heat all together in the Winter and heat in the Summer and using fans. Yet somehow I am still coming in well above the average. One month my bill was insanely high, and Yes Energy told me that “your meter malfunctioned, and didn’t send any numbers in. We took the average for your area and billed you accordingly.” I hit the roof, filed an ICE complaint and accused YES Energy of government fraud. Not surprisingly, they credited me that month back. I have since transferred to another community and while I haven’t seen my first bill, people in this community are having the same issues. I’m scared to death to see what this month’s bill brings.

  34. Yes! Energy are con artists. We used to live in, what is now called Kapilina Beach homes, on Oahu. The community is former Naval Housing, & we had neighbors that had electric bills as Hugh as $900+/mth!!! Those same neighbors were living like Midevil times in their homes. Our last mth there, they tried telling us that our bill was going 2 b over $500. My husband paid it just to get it over with.
    But yes, this company is a a military predatory company. They & the housing offices do this because they know that if the service member does not pay their bills, they can get kicked out of the service for it.

  35. We don’t have Lincoln anymore (THANK GOD, because we had a TON of other problems with them, including a $3,600 charge for them to replace carpet AFTER we moved out even though we cleared inspection and the carpet wasn’t damaged upon move out) however we are currently experiencing the same electric issues. We did have a home inspection. We had to pay over $100 each month for 3 months but “magically” when the inspector came by he said we were within the grace zone and shouldn’t see a bill this month…. it’s frustrating. We are a family of 9. But I can almost guarantee we use less than families of 5 simply because we are more aware of it. “Turn off the light” and strict bath time schedule and usage, etc.

  36. We live on knox. Our bills have not been high, however when we have had to pay it’s been because of a service fee that’s tacked on to our monthly bill. So, even though we stayed under the baseline, we wind up paying the full amount for what we were under simply for a 3.56 service fee.

  37. We have had the same issue on Aberdeen proving ground miltary base we use to revive a credit now we have not received one in so long and we honestly limit our stove usage and meal prep we only awh certain days always have all the lights off. Our housing in no way is energy efficient our upstairs is either super cold so we have to turn the heat up higher to warm the upstairs, or it’s way to hot and have to put the a/c lower just to cool it off. You can feel the Cold seeping through the windows and the doors as well. Very poor action from the office on any matter that needs to be fixed in the houses either they never come out or it takes them over a month to come out with continuos calling. Living on military installations just does not feel worth it at all anymore. I use to love picerne the previous housing company they were always on top of everything I felt they were for miltary families and making sure everything was taken care of in a speedy fashion. I hope things change soon or a lot or military families may start to steer away from living on post because it’s just not worth it anymore.

  38. Everyone, complaining on a blog will not get this fixed. You have to reach out in three directions; Installation IG, Installation Management Command, and if you are in the Army – Assistant Secretary of the Army Installation, Energy and Environment (http://www.asaie.army.mil/Public/Feedback/feedback.html). If those don’t work, go to the DoD IG or your service component. The only way to really fix this issue is to address senior level leadership. It never hurts to write your Senator or Congressperson, both in your State of Record and where you are posted.

    • Thank you. That was the purpose of writing this article–showing that people experiencing the problems are not alone, and pointing them in directions towards a solution. Many people who have been through this thought it was just happening in their neighborhood. The comments show that this problem is nationwide! I certainly hope any readers will follow up with command at their base and contact their representatives.

  39. Has anyone considered calling the Army/Air Force/Navy times. I don’t read it any longer, so I don’t know if there’s been a story done about it. If all the stories are true, this is a great story and needs to get out there.

  40. When we were stationed in Alabama we had this problem and I try to get a hold of the energy company and they told me that we were being grandfathered in which means it doesn’t matter how big my family is they go by with the family that lived in the house before us used so if they only got so if they only used like $140 in electricity that’s how much they gave us Even though the people that lived in the house before us with a family of three and we were a family of five therefore we would obviously use more energy but they said they couldn’t change it. I did my own investigating and found out that a house for bedrooms save amount of space as mine we’re getting 225 a month for electricity or I was only allowed 149 it never made sense the house across from me they were only allotted 80 and they were a family of three so this is not a new thing I’ve dealt with this many many times and they said they tried to fix it and we ended up getting reimbursed because they said they screwed up and I think they finally figured out that they got caught. And I think they found out that I was doing my own investigation with all the houses around us seeing how much they got allotted for their utilities it was absolutely ridiculous but I’ve dealt with this too and it’s not fine and you will never see eye to eye with Hunt. I’m just glad I don’t live on base anymore. Dare they mention times whenever I remember us not getting a paycheck and the government holding our paychecks like we don’t have families that’s a whole other story. Good night and God bless!

    Sincerely military wife

    • Hi Crista, thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences! As you can see, you are certainly not alone. This is happening at bases all over the country. 🙁 As I said near the end, the best thing to do is to do your own research and gather information. If you have numbers and evidence from the houses around you, then you will have a much stronger case. It worked for you, and that’s what we are encouraging others to do!

  41. We are moving out of base housing next week, but this has been a big issue in our neighborhood in Pearl City, HI.

    First of all, they have solar panels in all the homes but they told us it is just for the hot water heater. Some homes have two panels, some have ten. I guess their water is way hotter than ours.

    Second, for two months now we’ve had a couple of days that show zero energy use. Not sure how that is possible.

    Third, when looking at the estimated usage for our home and for the neighborhood, there is a dip in the last two days of the month for the average. How could there possibly be negative energy usage?

    Fourth, we have turned off the solar hot water heater. I was tired of taking cold showers on cloudy days. We have put a window unit in my daughter’s room. We keep the A/C and fans on 24/7. We have also put a cabinet freezer in the garage. Average bill went from $110 to $130.

    Fifth, when looking at my historical usage reports, the price per kw hour had increased in months I used less energy.

    Finally, the central A/C is an open system. That means it returns air from within the home as well as from the outside. This makes no sense in a humid environment like Hawaii. So house is always kind of sticky, A/C freezes up several times a year (and I change the filter every two weeks), and it’s always running.

    I put my email at the top of this page so if a class action starts, sign me up. I don’t care about getting any money back, I just want the obvious scam to end.

    • Chris, so sorry you have dealt with this issue too, but I appreciate your specific details about the problems and ‘unusual’ billing issues. I don’t think any law suit is being pursued yet, but I will certainly update you if it moves in that direction!