Lake County power company offers lower rates for homes with 'smart meters'

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

A Lake County power company is offering residents a way to save energy and money.

Leesburg Electric said it can save customers a bundle, as long as they have a new smart meter.

All 23,000 Leesburg Electric customers qualify.

The city will offer them a choice of special incentive rates.

John Abell is the type of guy who wants the latest gadget.

"It's right up my alley. I like that. I'll try it," Abell said.

He couldn't wait to get Leesburg Electric's new smart meter, and now he'll be able to use that meter to get lower rates.

Leesburg Electric Director Paul Kalv said the wholesale rate the city pays for power is based on just one hour every month during peak demand.

Customers can now pick a plan to adjust their thermostats during the hour and take advantage of lower rates.

"Every kilowatt hour is not the same," Kalv said.

"What you have now is one flat rate that everybody pays for electricity. This gives you a choice," said Leesburg resident Robert Sargent.

City leaders said during the hottest and coldest months, homeowners could save a lot.

"You're probably looking at the average home -- a three-two home -- probably $25 to $50 a month, which is pretty good," Sargent said.

The city's biggest customers are already saving by switching on their backup generators during peak demand.

Publix, Walmart, a hospital and the city itself are all part of that program, and they get hefty rebates from the utility company for saving power.

"We're always in a position to save a dime whenever we can. And this is one way we might be able to do it, if we take advantage of this new technology," Abell said.

A flier will go out to utility customers in a few weeks. The incentive rates will start early next year.