Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Forest City's Electricity Scam

Forest City runs the base housing for the Hawaii area.  Unless you are in a historic home (which has it's own set of problems) you are metered for electricity.  The way it works is simple:

- Each month your electrical usage is compared to homes similar to yours (a.k.a. Like Type Groups)
- The highest and lowest usages are dropped, and everyone else is averaged
- If you are within ten percent of the average, you don't pay a bill
- If you are over, you pay the difference; under, you get a check

The system works OK because homes aren't normally empty (so not too many low numbers to bring down the average) and the math is understandable.  All the homes have programmable air conditioning units and fans, so you can slowly program your way into comfortably not paying a bill.

Then I received this email:

Dear Forest City Resident Participating in the RECP Pilot Test Program,

I wanted to update you on the pilot test program.

1.  This month (on or about 15 August), you will receive two versions of your July RECP bill in the same envelope from YES Energy.

      a.  One bill will be your typical "LIVE" bill that provides your July usage information along with your billing status.  Please take appropriate action as needed regarding this bill.

      b.  The second bill with the "MOCK BILL" watermark provides your July usage information calculated using the test program methodology, along with the resultant billing status.  This bill is provided for your information and familiarity.  You will receive a simultaneous MOCK bill for three more months, until your November bill implements the test methodology and becomes your LIVE bill.

2.   As a reminder, the test methodology includes the following changes:

      a.  The monthly average for your Like-type Group (LTG) is determined by incorporating historical data from the previous year, plus and minus one month, e.g., calculating July 2015 average by using data from July 2015, June 2014, July 2014, and August 2014.

      b.  The buffer range will be calculated in two methods described below; and the highest buffer created by either method will apply and the lowest buffer created by either method will apply:

            1) The "ten percent" range will be calculated by sorting the consumption of the like- type group, including historical usage, highest to lowest. Then remove the highest and lowest consumption points. Of the remaining consumption numbers, calculate the average of all the data points. From that average, add ten percent and subtract ten percent to derive the upper and lower ten percent buffer limits.
            2) The "middle third" buffer range will be calculated by sorting the consumption of the like-type group, including historical usage, highest to lowest   Then remove the highest and lowest consumption points.  Of the remaining consumption numbers, determine the upper and lower buffer limits by utilizing the consumption values at both the 66.666 percentile and the 33.333 percentile, respectively.

3.  The MOCK bill provides my contact information.  I am ready to answer any questions you may have.  General rule: if incorporating your LTG's historical data results in the MOCK bill monthly average usage being higher than your LIVE bill average, your billing status in your MOCK bill will be better than in your LIVE bill.  If incorporating historical data results in the MOCK bill average being lower, your billing status in your MOCK bill will be lesser to your advantage than in your LIVE bill.

4.  When residents access the online resident portal, only LIVE billing information will be available (MOCK projections/bills will not be available online).

5.  Attached is (1) the 1 June 2015 CNRH letter sent to each resident, (2) the briefing presented at community meetings held in June 2015, and (3) a questionnaire to allow you to provide us feedback throughout the test period.

Please don't hesitate to contact me at any time if you have questions.

Are you confused? Because I'm an engineer and I'm confused.

Using "historical data" is a poor attempt to justify racking costs on us during the summer. Already this summer is one of the hottest on record, so now Forest City will use historical data to justify charging more because last year was a cooler year.

Even worse, this simply encourages people to not use air conditioning.  Forest City didn't pay for the homes; military construction funding did.  They should be striving to take care of them.  Encouraging people in a humid environment to not run air conditioning encourages mold growth

If we're that concerned about reducing costs, how about putting up more solar panels?  Since the homes are kept by the government, and solar panels tend to have a ROI around 5-7 years in Hawaii, this would make a lot of sense.

Why not assign a set kilowatt hours per house per month? How about publishing that rate and letting us check our usage daily if we like? That would encourage people to use under a certain amount, rather than having to play against their neighbors like we're enemies?

Forest City Housing already doesn't boot trespassing locals (because often times they are related to those working in the management office), which has lead to more and more neighbors having items stolen from their lawns. They also look the other way when people use the neighborhoods to cut between streets, despite very obvious signs. The increase in street traffic is dangerous because those people speed and run stop signs. I don't drive through local Hawaiian neighborhoods...not sure why that courtesy isn't extended to mine.

Maybe if the sign was in Hawaiian we wouldn't have trespassers...
The reality is that they don't care about reducing electrical usage or the environment or any of the other garbage they put into print. It's all about reducing risk to their bottom line on the backs of military residents.