So some of you readers might have seen a WUSA report in the D.C. area that took aim at federal workers leaving the lights on. Well, Andrea McCarren had noted that in many federal office buildings, the lights were being left on at night, which costs taxpayer dollars.
So she filed a report on how much each agency pays in energy costs for each month and came away with some striking figures.
The video package seems to have everything: Taxpayer dollars being wasted, federal employees behaving badly and federal agencies paying through the nose for electricity because they leave their lights on.
In fact, at the 1:35 minute of the video the camera zooms in on the Labor Department’s monthly bill and shows – weird techno soundtrack to highlight the number – a bill of $1,042,098.92 for July 2010.
Outrageous! Scandalous. The reporter decides to ask people how much a utility bill should be for these buildings. She then springs the million dollar number on them after they answer to record their shock.
There is only one problem. That number is not true.
A clue that there might be more to this story is that if you freeze the video at 1:35, you can see their totals for the other months. It looks like April’s number is around $40,000. A huge change month to month.
So what is the deal?
That number was the amount the Transportation Department was billed but not its utility cost for that month. Because of previous bills that undercharged them they had to make it up in those months. The amount they paid per month in electricity is actually as follows.
How did I get these numbers? I did my own request and found out about the error.
Phillip Puckett, the Department of Labor’s Director in the Office of Administrative Services states that:
The $1 million electric bill highlighted in the news report does not reflect a single month’s bill, but a billing correction where the General Services Administration vendor played catch up with under billing for previous months. The actual monthly electric bill for July was $390,466.43, not the $1,042,098.98 as reported.
The Department of Labor, Frances Perkins Building’s total electric bill for FY2010 was $4,244,040.13.
The reason the bills climbed from April to July was the bill corrections. The General Service Administration’s electric contract is broken down into generation and transmission fees. The vendor providing the electricity did not properly process and correctly bill DOL in the initial months of FY2010. The differences in the April to July bills reflect billing corrections.
Also, total building size should be taken into consideration for the electric bills. The Department of Labor, Frances Perkins Building’s is just under 2 million gross square feet in size.
I am not arguing that the lights being on don’t waste taxpayer money, they probably do. But lets note that on average commercial buildings use only 25 percent of their energy on electricity for lights. The rest is heating, cooling, appliances and other related costs.
Also, the Frances Perkins building spends about $2.10 per square foot on energy costs, which is below the commercial sector average for office space of about $2.28, according to the Energy Department.