Power bills to pack a wallop

Published: Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 11:28 p.m.

Electric bills that are now being sent 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 on Friday 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 on Jan. 7 at 451 megawatts. That record was broken on Jan. 11 at 468 megawatts at 7:23 a.m.

The temperature in Gainesville early on 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 <0x000A>customers," GRU general manager Bob Hunzinger said in a news release Friday. "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 334-3434 during business hours or by visiting www.gru.com and sending GRU a request through "Contact Us."

GRU reported that phone call wait times are increasing due to high volume of calls, so GRU said that using its Web site may be more convenient for some customers.

GRU customers who are registered on the Web site can also track their electric and gas usage history by logging on and clicking on the "consumption history" link. Another link provides billing history.

Customer requests for assistance will be addressed individually and will take 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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