A complicated name, for a complicated program. The Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) was implemented across all branches of the Department of Defense to reduce energy consumption among those living on base. The program creates a baseline of average use and then provides a 10% buffer above and below that baseline — those who go over the baseline are charged overage charges and those who conserve receive a rebate check.

The Military Family Advisory Network was given the opportunity to brief Mrs. Dunford, the wife of the highest ranking active-duty service member, General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As a board member of MFAN, I was asked to share hot-button topics to discuss — I knew I wanted to bring this issue to the table.

Many residents have complained about the program because it’s simply not working. I’m sure when people were pouring over ways to make reductions, pitting neighbor against neighbor sounded like a good idea; a little healthy competition, right?

But what’s happening is that our community is being lost. Residents are discouraged by the problems in base housing and vow to never live on base again.

I’m saddened by this because I’ve loved living on base. The friendships made in the community by both parents and children alike are something reminiscent of Mayberry, referenced in the Andy Griffith Show: a place where neighbors rejoice living in their small town relatively free of crime, where community and friendship blossoms among patriotic and American values.

A Random Sampling of On Base and Off Base Homes

I set out to conduct a study of the RECP program in my old neighborhood, as my husband recently retired. I collected energy bills from 19 homes and compared 17 of those to 4 homes outside the base. Two of the bills collected were excluded because of the unusually high kWh use.

I should note that NCIS Camp Pendleton told me they referred all RECP incidents to NCIS San Diego, because it outgrew their offices. There is currently an ongoing investigation. *Update: PAO Camp Pendleton told me the investigation is now closed with no report of wrongdoing, however, I have asked for paperwork which states that, and have not received that to date.


I was shocked to discover that YES Energy charges military families MORE for overages (.3565000) compared to off base (.28985). Furthermore, almost all military families would qualify for a 30% discount off their bill if they lived out in town due to low-income, however, none of the families living on base can take advantage of this opportunity.

Overage Charges on base vs off
A family was billed $114.13 for overages on base. That same bill would have been $92.78 with the lower overage rate SDGE charges. Factoring the low-income discount, that same bill out in town would have been $64.95 — 43% less than this resident was charged.

UPDATE: 2.10.17: Mr. Stephen Wolfe, Facility Manager aboard Camp Pendleton put out the following notice:Base statement of Energy Rates SDGEWe now know that base has the ability to charge residents less for their electricity use. And 2) the rate Mr. Wolfe refers to is flat out wrong. See for yourself — I have several more bills that show the EXACT SAME THING.

Electric Charges in town 2

I was also shocked to discover the amount of energy (kWh use) consumed on base was significantly higher than homes off-base. To be fair, I included the average gas used off base to reflect an accurate take on energy use overall. Factoring both gas and electricity energy use off base, and comparing that to the on base electric use shows an exponentially higher kWh use per square foot in base housing.

This means several things to me. To start, homes built on base were not meant to be billed for independent electric use and therefore were not wired independently. Furthermore, I believe many homes are powering outside utilities such as street lights, sprinklers, and other equipment. Energy audits have shown this to be true. In fact, many residents have discovered that they’ve been powering all or parts of a neighbor’s home after an audit.

What’s more concerning is that residents have been handed a printout of their energy use during an energy audit which differs dramatically from their recorded use in their YES bills.

One family was billed for 665.58 kWh, but their meter showed 395 kWh use. 

This is a huge red flag to me! So what happens when an ENERGY AUDIT shows way less use than the family is being billed for? NOTHING. This family is still fighting for help and has been since December.

Energy use on base compared to off base

Base residents are also concerned with the inconsistency in bills. Many families go through a ‘mock-billing’ trial for 3 months, and then as each month passes, the bills get higher and higher.

Inconsistency in bills

Update 2.10.17: Mr. Stephen Wolfe, Facility Manager aboard Camp Pendleton put out the following notice:Base letter response2

Here’s the realities of using a statement saying that the average bill is just $35. In the example above, the year’s bills does average to roughly $36, but that doesn’t paint a true picture of how the RECP program is hurting this family.

The graph above is an E3 family with one child and they have changed nothing in their energy use. This family qualifies for food insecurity resources such as WIC, SNAP, and more. Adding an unexpected bill of $50-$110+ is financially debilitating (months 1-6 were negative or 0, then bills of  $64.20, $77.31, $64.84, $77.89, $58.26, $108.86: which averages to $36/year)

Let’s look at when residents receive high bills over a period of six months. The higher overage rate that base charges really adds up when compared to the lower off-base rates.

High Bills over six months
This family was billed anywhere from $73 to almost $600 in overages on base.

Those high bills over a six month period of time, ends up costing families thousands more.

cumulative costs over six months overage charges
The same bill as above, shown over a six month period of savings had the family lived off base. It should be noted, it’s not a mlitary discount, but rather a low-income discount.

In the end, families don’t understand why they’re getting these high bills. Base officials have reported residents using “illegal AC units” but in looking at actual AC use in a permitted EMFP family home, the bill was only an additional amount of $114.62, and $83.69 for two months of subsequent use.

The base also states that deep freezers and aquariums also pull a substantial amount of kWh use; however, I cannot see how some residents are billed $300-500+ in overages compared to their neighbors. To me, this indicates a significant problem with the home wiring, energy efficient appliances across homes, luck of the draw if a home has trees and ventilation, and family size discrepancy.

In the example above, the family couldn’t pay for the overages base billed them for, and carried forward a balance of $1101.18. They received an eviction notice from Lincoln Privatized Housing.

overages leading to eviction

This family had to choose between having Christmas or paying their wonky electric bill.

These eviction notices are troubling because most families are unaware that there is a longer process to eviction. Most believe they literally have 3 days before getting kicked out which is alarming because most military families don’t have the thousands of dollars on hand to pay for security deposits, moving equipment, and supplies.

To that end, Privatized Housing is referring families to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and other charities to get loans to pay these outrageous bills. Moreover, we don’t know how many of these families are going to predatory lenders to pay their bill and ultimately end up hurting themselves in long run, for an issue that is likely in part to something they have no control over.

2.10.17 Update: Mr. Stephen Wolfe, Facility Manager aboard Camp Pendleton put out the following notice:

Every single family I’ve spoken to has never dealt with a base authority outside of Lincoln, so I’m not sure who the MCI Facilities team is actually engaging with, or at all. And sometimes Energy Audits do take place, and then NOTHING HAPPENS after that.

The families are threatened and then believe they must pay something or they’ll be evicted off base; that is the whole purpose of using the strong language in the letter. If Lincoln didn’t believe in using the scare tactics, they wouldn’t send that kind of notice in the first place: a letter which serves as the first step in a real estate eviction process.

Here’s some statements collected on 2.9.17: every one of them has to do with Mr. Killian, the Lincoln employee who handles escalated energy issues:

Winners and Losers 

The current system is based on winners and losers and we believe all our military families deserve fair treatment. Some families are not living a normal life and it’s affecting the average. In fact, many shut off the breakers any time they’re away from home, do laundry and shower off base, all to preserve their kWh use.

Overall Concerns with the Program

We are experiencing a cultural shift in community in our young military families; on-base housing is one of the last places this can be found. It’s disheartening to know that this system is driving people off base and damaging the community that many military families have come to know and love.

So what am I missing? As an educated individual, this whole program makes zero sense. This isn’t healthy competition, this is a flawed program.

More Stories from Residents

See what happened when this family when they moved just a few miles off base.


Check out some of the feedback my fellow military spouse blogger, The Seasoned Spouse, received when families contacted her.

Still not enough? Check out this official government report.