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Service Members Aim High -- for Energy Savings

February 22, 2010 - 12:32pm


Reducing our dependency on foreign oil means finding ways to harness the power of renewable energy sources, but it also means saving energy whenever and wherever possible. The Americans charged with keeping the country safe are now helping the U.S. reach its energy savings goals by taking small, important steps.

“Operation Change Out: The Military Challenge” is a campaign asking U.S. service members to replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, known as CFLs. The actions these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are taking as a military community set an example for all Americans on how the commitment of individuals can achieve a significant collective impact across the country. Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, Calif., is just one example from the bases participating across the country.

“Our largest part of the change out included 700 new military family housing units, and we replaced everything with CFL bulbs down to the oven and garage lights — even lamps,” Enrique Torres, base energy manager, says.

By participating in the program, these service members are reducing energy use, which saves military families’ and taxpayers’ money while also benefiting the environment in which we all live. Many of the military’s privatized housing providers are replacing bulbs during routine maintenance or between occupancy, while some bases are also utilizing their facilities management departments to help with the process.

“We have seen a dip in our utility costs, and all the military families had to do was let us in to do the change outs,” Enrique says.

Service members on base generally receive a stipend to pay for housing costs, meaning the cost of electricity is shifted from being paid directly by the government to the service member. If a household uses more than the average electricity usage for their community in a given period of time, they must pay the extra amount, but they receive credit for using less energy.

 “First of all, this provides savings for the Air Force,” Enrique says. “But it really has a message where the tenants of the base see these bulbs and are reminded each day about energy conservation — they are thinking, ‘I didn’t have to pay for this, but it’s saving us all money.’”

Bases from every military branch are participating, including all U.S. Air Force commands. The Energy Department spearheaded Operation Change Out as part of its energy efficiency and renewable energy work.

At the end of January 2010, 152 bases are participating in 45 states, eight foreign countries and the District of Columbia, with 880,300 total bulbs changed, cutting $26.3 million in total energy costs and preventing more than 396 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of the bulbs.

In addition to the light bulb change outs, several housing providers have been named Builders Challenge partners by DOE, base stores are including more energy-efficient products than ever before, and DOE produced a public service announcement shown in hundreds of military theaters worldwide.