BY SARAH GREGORY
The number of Greeneville Light & Power System (GL&PS) customers using electronic methods to pay their power bills has surpassed expectations, and now, the utility is beginning to offer a new pre-pay option.
That was the report Monday to the GL&PS Board of Directors from Jim Glaze, director of Customer Service and Office Manager, and General Manager Bill Carroll.
The utility now offers a variety of electronic methods for customers to make payments, including by telephone, Internet, and kiosks placed in the GL&PS office and the operations center.
GL&PS has accepted electronic payments through phone and Internet since 2011. The kiosks, Glaze said, have been in place since January.
As of midnight Monday morning, Glaze said, GL&PS has received 5,224 in electronic payments through phone, Internet, or kiosk this month.
Another 3,553 payments by credit card, he added, have been made this month.
GL&PS has received more than 1,600 electronic checks, Glaze said.
More than 250 credit card payments have been processed through kiosks located in the GL&PS headquarters and at the operations center.
Another kiosk, Glaze said, will be added outside the GL&PS building.
That machine will look similar to a bank ATM, and will be able to take cash, electronic check, or credit card payments.
"Hopefully we'll have that in in the next couple of months," Glaze added.
Although about 10,000 payments are received each month through the Internet, electronic banking, and bank draft, the majority of customers, Glaze said, opt to pay a GL&PS cashier in person or send a payment by mail.
"It's been real, real successful," said Carroll. "We'll be having some more options in not too long from now to make it more handy for people" to pay electronically, he added.
Glaze and Carroll said the number of people taking advantage of electronic payments has surpassed their projections. They estimated 30 percent of customers would take advantage of the electronic options.
"People have grabbed it and run with it," Carroll told the GL&PS Board of Directors.
He also told the board that a new pre-pay option is being launched.
"We have seven pre-pay customers. We are very proud of that. We finally got that working. It's going to work very well," Carroll said.
"We'll be pushing sign-up on that a little bit in weeks to come," he told the board.
Carroll said that the program was successfully piloted and will now be made available to customers.
"I think it's going to be a good option for people," he said, adding that the utility was "excited" to offer the option.
The pre-pay option, Carroll explained, is "like filling your gas tank."
Customers who use the pre-pay option will not face a deposit, and will pay for their electric service when they desire.
The way it works, Carroll explained, is that, after the standard $15 sign-up fee, a customer will pay a certain amount in advance.
Customers can then set a dollar amount at which they wish to be notified.
As a customer uses electricity, it is paid for automatically from the pre-pay account.
When the amount of money remaining in the account reaches the level the customer indicated, the customer will be notified, and can add additional funds to the account as they desire.
"It will be automated," Carroll told the board, explaining that, once an account is depleted, service will be disrupted.
After additional funds are added to the account, he said, service will be restored automatically "within minutes."
Board members took no action on the electronic or pre-pay updates, as the information was given as a presentation only.