Smart Meters in Ireland: Everything you need to know
The rollout for smart meters in Ireland went live at the beginning of March 2021 and will last until the end of 2024. This complete review covers all your questions regarding the ESB smart meter. Read on to find out what a smart meter is, how to get one, its advantages, disadvantages, and much more.
What is a Smart Meter?
Simply put, a smart meter is a device which counts your electricity usage in real-time and wirelessly relays that information.
This allows you to have up-to-the-minute control over your electricity consumption, intended to help reduce electricity usage in your home.
A smart meter will also automatically communicate your electricity usage daily to your electricity supplier. Eliminating the need to submit meter readings and ensuring precise energy bills rather than paying for an estimated amount.
How do smart meters operate?
Your smart meter transmits your electricity usage wirelessly via a secure 2G mobile phone network provided by Three Ireland Limited.
The technology used in an ESB smart meter-supplier communications employs multiple layers of cyber security and complies with all applicable data privacy and protection laws.
Are smart meters dangerous?
Smart meters use the same wireless technology as a mobile phone. It does not pose any higher dangers than any mobile phone.
According to the CRU, “Health authorities around the world confirm that there are no health effects from smart meters. Smart meters are safe and follow all requirements and international standards”.
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Smart Meters in Ireland
Following Ireland’s decision to sign the Paris Agreement in 2015, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) announced the deployment of smart meters in Ireland in 2017 as part of its commitment to the National Climate Action Plan.
They had already tested electricity smart meters in Ireland and results showed an average reduction of electricity use of 3% in homes equipped with a smart meter and a reduction of 8% during peak times.
The €1.1 billion smart meter rollout programme was launched in 2019 and assigned to Ireland’s National Electricity Distributor, ESB Networks, for the smart meter installation task.
To date, ESB Networks have already installed over 250,000 smart meters in Irish homes, businesses and farms. The company aims to complete all 2.4 million smart meter installations by the end of 2024.
Are smart meters compulsory in Ireland?
No! 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, contact ESB Networks to let them know. You will need to provide your MPRN. You can find this 11-digit number on your electricity bill.
Keep in mind, you would miss out on the benefits a smart meter offers. There is also no guarantee that future smart meter installation requests will be free of cost, as it is currently the case.
How to request a smart meter in Ireland?
To get an ESB smart meter installed, contact the distributor directly or your energy supplier. You can reach ESB Networks on 1800 928 123 or 01 698 5005. They are managing the rollout of smart meters in Ireland.
The meter exchange requires a power outage of up to 45 minutes. ESB does the smart meter installation for free and will contact you prior to carrying out the work.
How do you Read an ESB Smart Meter?
Every smart meter has a digital screen from which you can select the display option of your choice. To change the display option, simply push the larger black button on the left-hand side and scroll between displays.
Your cumulative meter reading should be the number displayed in the center of the digital screen.
Here is the information found from the default display:
- Shows the cumulative kWh usage for a 24-hour period
- Current time-of-use tariff (i.e. T1, T2, T3) for day, night, or peak tariff
- Meter signal strength
- Voltage and the direction of feed, whether it is import or export (for those selling back energy produced from their solar panels, windmill, or other source).
To learn more about the other smart meter functionalities, watch this short video on ESB Networks smart meters:
ESB Smart Meter App
ESB Networks does not have an app for smart meters. The individual energy suppliers are the ones left with the development of their own app to work with the ESB smart meter.
To date, the following suppliers in Ireland have specific smart meter rates available:
- Electric Ireland
- Bord Gáis Energy
- Bright Energy
- Community Power
- Iberdrola Ireland
- Prepay Power
- SSE Airtricity Ireland
Could a smart meter help you save money on your energy bills?
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How to Get Emergency Credit on a Smart Meter
Warning! This question only applies to customers using their ESB smart meter on Pay As You Go (PAYG) function.
How to get the emergency credit activated on your smart meter will depend on your energy supplier. As an example, Prepay Power allows you to enable the emergency credit from their app. The emergency credit activation button is on the home screen.
Let's hope your home has not already run out of credit on the meter and that your phone battery is dead!
Electricity Smart Meter Monitor
Do not confuse smart meters with electricity monitors, or In-Home Display (IHD) monitors. Currently, we know of two electricity suppliers, Electric Ireland and Pinergy, who provide IHDs with their smart meter packages.
By looking at an electricity monitor, you'll be able to see how much energy you are consuming, as well as how much you are spending, in near real-time. Roughly the size of a smartphone, you can place the device anywhere you like in your house. It doesn't have to be in the same location as the meter.
While you wait for your ESB smart meter installation, you could try out the Owl, Minim+ electricity appliance monitors, or consider smart thermostats. These will allow you to benefit from some of the smart meter features by assisting you to monitor your energy consumption.
Smart Meters Abroad
Ireland is not the only country installing smart meters to help with the fight against climate change. In fact, many countries have done so much earlier. 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, while the patent for this technology dates all the way back to 1974 in the U.S.!
Ireland is in the fortunate situation of having learned from these other countries' mistakes, which is helping make this transition to smart meters rather smooth by comparison. Having also learned from its own failures with the 2011 attempt to install water smart meters, as am sure some of you will recall.
Globally, every year there are approximately 131 million smart meters installed. Experts expect the number to rise to 188 million units yearly by 2025.
In Europe alone, over 34.8 million units are to be installed by the end of 2021 - that is a mind-boggling 18% of all the EU’s households in a single year.
A smart meter can also measure water consumption or gas.
Newly installed gas meters in Ireland could easily be converted to a gas smart meter in the future, but the present rollout consists only of the electricity ESB smart meter.
Is it Worth Getting a Smart Meter?
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 in Ireland will also give you access to a wider variety of tariffs, some of which offer cheaper prices during certain hours.
ESB Smart Meter Advantages
Let's have a look at some of the various advantages of the ESB smart meter.
- Accurate billing - Smart meters automatically send accurate meter readings to your energy supplier, you no longer need to deal with estimated bills.
- Real-time display - With a smart meter, customers can use the In-Home Display monitor, their online account, or an app to see how much energy they are consuming.
- Savings - Studies suggest that customers with a smart meter could save an additional 2.5% on their energy bills per year (around €30) because of an increased awareness of their consumption.
- Eliminate inefficient devices - A smart meter will allow you to identify which appliances are consuming the most energy. You can then easily take steps to replace items or encourage energy-saving behaviour.
- Curb your behavior - There are many ways to reduce your bills by changing energy spending habits in your household. A smart meter can help you easily identify these.
- Access better tariffs - An ESB smart meter allows 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% (around €80 a year) on your energy bills if you consume more than a quarter of your energy during off-peak times.
- Reduce Carbon Footprint - Smart meters will aid Ireland’s 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.
- Support renewable energy - Smart meters will be able to calculate electricity imports and exports. This means that customers who have additional energy sources, such as solar power, wind farms, will find it easier to feed their excess electricity back into the grid and get paid for it.
- Help the grid - Receiving regular updates on your electricity usage will allow ESB Networks to find faults in the distribution system faster, making your meter safer and more efficient to manage.
- You can still switch suppliers - Having a smart meter won't stop you from being able to regularly switch suppliers to get better rates.
Important Even though smart meters in Ireland will help you save money on your bills, nothing will ever beat the savings you can have on your energy costs by switching 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.
Are there any disadvantages to smart meters?
Let's examine some of the various disadvantages of the ESB smart meter.
- Cost - Advertised as a ‘free’ installation, the ESB 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.
- No turning back - Once you decide to have a smart meter installed, there is no change of mind policy. You cannot return to your old style meter if you are not happy with these new modern ones.
- Not fail proof - Some smart meter customers in the UK have also reported issues with faulty meters contributing to an increase in their bills.
- Dependent on phone signal - If you live in a remote area where the phone signal strength is low, your smart meter will not work efficiently.
- Overestimated savings - An overestimate of the potential savings. As listed below, none of the current best electricity offers in Ireland are with a smart meter tariff.
|Supplier||Best offer||Price per year|
|Bord Gáis Energy||36% Discount||€951.10|
|Electric Ireland||5.5% Discount
|SSE Airtricity||10% Discount
|Find the best offer for your home. Find the best offer for your home.|
*Figures are for illustrative purposes only. Calculations based on average consumption figures for an urban home with a 24-hour standard meter. All discounts and cashback have been applied. Last updated: November 2021
Customers who don’t wish to have an ESB smart meter installed can opt out but should know over time the only meters offered in Ireland will be smart meters. It will no longer be possible to swap out an existing meter for a traditional credit meter.
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 an ESB smart meter.