Some GRU bills may double because of cold snap

Family and friends (left-right) Sharlyn Valle, Hery Valle, Jonathan Getierrez and Maribel Cruz stop to look at and play with the frozen bushes lining the front of the Lacrosse Complex on Hull Road. The Valle's came to Gainesville for a visit from Miami and have never seen frozen plants.

Brad McClenny / Special to the Sun
Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.

Electric bills that are now being mailed out will reflect usage from the recent deep freeze, prompting Gainesville Regional Utilities to offer customers payment plans if they cannot afford the sudden increase.

GRU spokesman Dan Jesse said many people will have significantly higher bills than the month before, when temperatures were more moderate.

"There is no doubt about it, a lot of people are going to be seeing bills that are double," Jesse said.

GRU for the first time is calling customers with current phone numbers to encourage them to call GRU if they need help in paying their bills with payment extensions and installment options.

From Jan. 1-13, Gainesville experienced nine nights when the temperatures dipped below freezing while daytime temperatures never rose above 60 degrees. As a result, many heating systems were running constantly and GRU broke two records for peak demand for electricity.

The first record was set Jan. 7 at 451 megawatts. That record was broken Jan. 11 at 468 megawatts at 7:23 a.m.

The cold in Gainesville early Monday, Jan. 11, broke a record for the date by dropping to 17 degrees. The old record for Jan. 11 was 20 degrees, set in 1959.

“We understand that unusually high energy use affects the monthly budgets of our customers," general manager Bob Hunzinger said in a prepared statement. "We have programs in place to help them manage this unexpected increase, and are working diligently to let customers know that help is available.”

Details for payment plans can be obtained by calling GRU's customer service at 352-334-3434 during business hours or by visiting and sending GRU a request through “Contact Us.” Phone call wait times are increasing due to high volume calling, so GRU suggests that using its website may be more convenient for some customers.

Customer requests for assistance will be addressed individually, taking into account payment history. Customers who require additional help will be directed to agencies that administer GRU's Project SHARE for one-time payment assistance. Project SHARE agencies can be reached by calling United Way's 211 information line.

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