The first smart electricity meters will be installed in 2019, the Commission for Energy Regulation announced today (21 September 2017), with all ROI households to be connected by 2024.

ESB Networks will be responsible for the roll-out under the supervision of a governmental steering group which will include the CER.

The first meters to be replaced will be older ones that are due for an upgrade; properties that put in a request will also be given ‘initial priority’. The initial delivery of 250,000 meters will take place in 2019 and 2020 then approximately half a million meters will be installed per year (from 2021 to 2024).

The reason for the roll out, beyond EU directives, is that electricity demand peaks right before and after 9-to-5 work hours, in the mornings and evenings. This puts a strain on the electricity network as it requires fossil fueled power stations to ‘switch on’ during these times to meet demand.

This pattern also reduces the network’s capacity to use renewables, which tend to generate electricity during the day. Electricity generated during the day by renewables is generally the cheapest.

‘Real time’ energy bills

The CER hopes that consumers will respond to getting ‘real time’ or ‘dynamic’ electricity bills, which will charge you according to the time of day you consume the energy.

Even though night rate pricing plans currently exist, day and night rates are fixed. With the new smart billing system you’ll be able to monitor, at 30 minute intervals, when the rate is low and manage your energy consumption accordingly.

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the connected meter is that it can  communicate with apps, which in turn may control your appliances and other devices.

This could mean programming your dishwasher to turn on when the electricity rate is at its lowest during the day, even if you’re not at home. The process could be automated, in that you wouldn’t need to give the command every day.

Other smart meter benefits include no longer having your meter read as the data will be sent to your electricity provider automatically.

However, critics of smart meter technology cite data protection as an issue. The European Commission has guidelines in place to address this aspect.

In GB, where the roll out of smart meters for gas has already started, the solution was to ask consumers to decide how much information they’d be willing to share with the service provider and how frequently. The catch is that the more information you share with your billing company the more you can avail of dynamic tariffs. There is also a provision to allow the network operator to access data for maintenance purposes.