Smart Meters in Ireland: Is the upgrade worth it?
Smart meters track your energy usage in near real-time. By sending automatic and accurate meter readings, you'll no longer need to worry about estimated bills. Read on to learn about the smart-meter rollout in Ireland and how to get one installed in your home.
What is a smart meter?
Simply put, a smart meter is a meter which records electricity or gas usage and communicates the information to an electricity supplier directly. From 2021, smart meters in Ireland will send readings automatically to your supplier. You'll no longer need to worry about getting any more estimated bills.
Smart meters are often confused with electricity monitors, or In-Home Display (IHD) monitors. An IHD monitor is a small digital device (about the size of a 5” x 7” photo frame) that shows you how much energy you're consuming in near real-time. It also shows how much you're spending.
Smart meters can also be used to measure water consumption, but in this article, we’ll be focusing on electricity applications. Newly installed gas meters in Ireland could be easily converted to gas smart meters in the future, but the present rollout consists of only electricity smart meters.
How do smart meters communicate with suppliers?
The technology used in smart meter-supplier communications was developed in 1972 by Theodore Paraskevakos and is a form of digital transmission, spun off from the Caller ID system. Information is transmitted within your home on the Home Area Network (HAN) and to suppliers using the Wide Area Network (WAN).
Smart meters in Ireland
A €1.1 billion smart meter rollout programme was launched in Ireland in 2019. By the end of 2020, ESB plans to have installed 250,000 smart meters in Irish homes and businesses. This initial phase prioritises replacing older meters and supplying customers who have requested to have a smart meter installed. Roughly 500,000 meters will then be switched out each year from 2021 to 2024.
This means that in theory, barring any delays or unforeseen issues, by the end of 2024 every house in Ireland should have a smart meter.
How do I get a smart meter in Ireland?
To get a smart meter installed, you should contact ESB Networks. Your They operate the electricity distribution system in the Republic of Ireland and are in charge of managing the smart meter rollout. You can call ESB on 1800 928 123 or 01 698 5005.
Are smart meters compulsory in Ireland?
If you do not want to have your meter upgraded to a smart meter, you have the legal right to refuse one. To opt out of getting a smart meter in Ireland, you should contact ESB Networks to let them know. You will need to provide your MPRN. This 11-digit number can be found on your electricity bill.
ESB smart meter
ESB networks is responsible for managing the Irish electricity distribution network and will be working in conjunction with Gas Networks Ireland, and energy suppliers, to roll out smart meters to Ireland’s 2.25 households currently connected to the electricity grid.
Security requirements have been incorporated from the very start of the smart meter project proposal (in 2008). The national smart metering program is in fact under the direction of the CRU, who also undertook preparatory work for the scheme.
Electricity monitors, also known as In-Home Display (IHD) units, will be provided after completion of the smart meter rollout in 2024. Two electricity suppliers, Electric Ireland and Pinergy currently provide IHDs with their smart meter packages.
By looking at the electricity monitor, you'll be able to see how much energy you are consuming, as well as how much your spending, in near real-time. You can put it anywhere you like in your house. It doesn't have to be in the same location as the meter.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a smart meter yet but are interested in enjoying some of the benefits in the meantime, such as monitoring and reducing your energy consumption, you could try out the Owl or Minim electricity appliance monitors.
Electric Ireland smart meter
Electric Ireland offers smart meters as part of its SPAYG (Smarter Pay As You Go) electricity package. It also includes the In-Home Display (IHD), which allows you to view your balance, energy consumption, account details and tariff. It’s also highly customizable, with options to change the backlight, sound, and personal target settings.
Pinergy smart meters
Pinergy are a PAYG only company and provide smart meters with touch-screen electricity monitors. They highly recommend smart meters and claim that 32% of new Pinergy users have managed to reduce their annual energy consumption by at least 20%.
Given that one of the biggest drawbacks for PAYG customers is that PAYG is more expensive, a 20% reduction in usage could make a massive difference to the amount that customers need to top up and would certainly make PAYG a much more attractive option.
Smart meters abroad
Currently there are roughly 500 million smart meters installed globally, a number set to rise to 700 million by 2020 year-end. In Europe alone, nearly 40% of the EU’s electricity customers - a mind-boggling 70 million households - are already using smart meters, and that number is set to increase to more than 200 million by 2023.
Italy and Sweden were the first European countries to pioneer the nationwide deployment of smart meters, and Spain soon joined in with their efforts. Our neighbours in the UK began their smart meter rollout in 2011, aiming to have smart meters installed in 50 million households by 2020. However the UK’s scheme is currently running behind schedule, meaning it’s doubtful the 2020 target will be met.
Smart meter advantages
Let's have a look at some of the various advantages of smart meters.
- Smart meters ensure accurate billing. By automatically sending accurate meter readings, you no longer need to deal with estimated billing.
- View your usage in real-time. With smart meters, customers can use the In-Home Display monitor, their online account or an app to see how much energy they are consuming. Studies suggest that customers with smart meters could save an additional 2.5% on their energy bills per year (around €50) due to an increased awareness of their consumption.
- See which appliances are consuming the most energy. You can then take steps to replace items or encourage energy-saving behaviour. There are many ways to reduce your bills by changing energy spending habits in your household, and smart meters can help.
- Smart meters will aid the Climate Action Plan. Less energy consumption equals less demand. Less demand means a further reduction in carbon producing fuels that produce electricity. So not only will customers be saving money, but they’ll also be helping to save the environment and push Ireland closer to its EU carbon reduction targets.
- Smart meters will be able to accurately measure electricity imports and exports. This means that customers who have additional energy sources, such as solar power, will find it easier to feed their excess electricity back into the grid and get paid for it.
- Smart meters allow for time-of-use tariffs. These tariffs take consumption patterns into account and allow consumers to take advantage of cheaper rates during off-peak hours. With this type of tariff, you could save up to 8% on your energy bills if you consume more than a quarter of your energy during off-peak times.
Even though smart meters can help you save money on your bills, the best way cut back on your energy costs is to switch suppliers each year. If you haven't changed suppliers in the past year, it's likely that new customers are getting better rates than you are.
Smart meter disadvantages
Customers who don’t wish to have smart meters installed can opt out but should be aware that over time the only meters offered will be smart meters. It will no longer be possible to swap out an existing meter for a traditional credit meter.
The smart meter rollout will incur an additional network charge for all customers, no matter if you have a smart meter or not. This will be the nominal amount of €5.50 a year added to your bill for the next 20 years.
Possible savings may have been overestimated for customers, with large UK electricity and gas providers, such as British Gas, estimating that actual savings for their customers have actually been less than €4.50 a year. British Gas did not provide any additional information, such as whether its customers had initiated more effective usage habits with the information gained from having a smart meter.
Some smart meter customers in the UK have also reported issues with faulty meters contributing to an increase in their bills.
What are the dangers of a smart meter?
Likewise, concerns about the protection of personal data have been raised, as well as the possibility of “home-hacking”, where hackers could remotely gain access to your household’s electricity system and disable it.
Some concerns have also been raised about the microwave radiation of smart meters and the possible health repercussions. However, according to the American Cancer Society, "it is very unlikely that living in a house with a smart meter increases risk of cancer." You're exposed to more radiation from your cell phone that you would be from having a smart meter in your house.
Is it worth getting a smart meter installed?
If you're looking for ways to save money on your electricity bills, a smart meter can help by allowing you to monitor and cut back on your consumption. Smart meters also give you access to a wider variety of tariffs, some of which offer cheaper prices during certain hours.
When you consider the benefits of automatic meter readings, accurate billing and the ability to keep track of your energy spend and consumption in near-real time, we'd say it's definitely worth getting a smart meter.