City of Leesburg, Florida, approves US$20M project with GE Energy to install citywide smart grid service, partly funded by US$10M DOE grant; smart meter installation begins March 2012

LEESBURG, Florida , November 30, 2011 (press release) – New improvements will update the city’s electric utility with the latest technology, empowering customers to conserve energy and to reduce monthly power bills.

The Leesburg City Commission on Monday unanimously approved an agreement with G.E. Energy to undergo an unprecedented modernization of the city’s electric utility – a $20 million project that will empower 24,000 customers to save energy and money with today’s most advanced Smart Grid energy technology.

The partnership – supported by more than $10 million in federal grants through the U.S. Department of Energy – will establish Leesburg among the country’s leading utilities to provide customers with near real-time information to better use electricity at their homes and businesses. Electric service will become more efficient, reliable and resilient, allowing for fewer power outages and quicker means to locate and resolve potential service disruptions.

“We chose to give the citizens of Leesburg the ability to look at their electric bills and reduce their overall costs,” said City Commissioner David Knowles. “I am pleased that we are in the top one percent of cities around the country doing things like this to make life better for the community.”

In March of next year, Leesburg will begin providing all customers with new smart meters that wirelessly transmit electric-use data to the utility every 15 minutes. Installation of the meters is expected to take about eight weeks to complete.

Leesburg and G.E. Energy then will provide a new system for customers to check their electric consumption at any time. The new information will allow those customers to better monitor and adjust their electric usage throughout the month – a huge improvement from the once-a-month meter readings used by most electric utilities for much of the past 100 years.

A primary goal is to empower customers to avoid peak demand periods, when Leesburg and other utilities are expected to draw the most electricity to serve customers. That is when large, regional power plants work the hardest and charge the most to supply electricity to this growing part of Central Florida.

Curbing peak demand will reduce wholesale electric expenses for Leesburg and – through the new Smart Grid improvements – improve customer service, save operational costs and reduce energy thefts. The new system is expected to save Leesburg nearly $15 million in electric operations over the next 20 years.

Better yet, utility customers will have the greatest opportunity and the most choices to reduce their own monthly power bills.

Leesburg originally began testing Smart Grid technology in 2008, when it installed 140 new smart meters among local homes. The meters work flawlessly and allow Leesburg to better understand residential energy demands among customers.

The city also has used emergency generators and other creative efforts in coordination with Leesburg Regional Medical Center and two local Publix Super Markets to curb peak-time electric demands since mid 2009 and to save a total of $3.3 million.

Two years ago, Leesburg was among 100 electric utilities from across the country and only eight in Florida to be selected for $3.4 billion in federal stimulus money targeting Smart Grid energy projects. Industry experts later identified the city among less than 20 of the best proposed uses of that energy grant money.

Leesburg is a progressive city of more than 20,000 residents in northwest Lake County. The city government serves twice as many people with its electric, gas, water, wastewater and fiber-optic public utilities. Leesburg also is a central hub for commerce, attracting 50,000 people to work each weekday.

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