Smart meters scheme to help reduce home electricity bills


HOUSEHOLD ELECTRICITY meters in the Republic are to be replaced by "smart meters" which offer a range of functions including the intelligent use of cheap-rate electricity, while also providing for householders to sell home-generated electricity back to the national grid.

The meters are to be rolled out over the next four years at a cost of almost €1 billion.

Launching a pilot scheme involving an initial 15,000 smart meters yesterday, Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan said they would help householders to reduce their electricity bills, improve the operation of the electricity system and reduce carbon emissions.

Smart meters can monitor and record the amount of electricity used by the householder, as well as when it is used.

This data is communicated directly to the electricity supply company which can establish very clear patterns of energy usage.

It also makes the customer aware of how much energy they are using and allows them to make decisions on when to use electricity. For example, smart meters could be set to automatically shut down electricity to selected electrical items at peak times when power is at its most expensive.

Minister Ryan pointed out yesterday that electric cars could be charged by smart meters at night when electricity was cheap, and used during the day, when electricity was expensive.

Because of the system's ability to read meters every half hour, very accurate billing information and time-of-use pricing will be available to the consumer.

The electricity supplier will also cut costs, by improving electricity planning and system management.

Smart meters also allow two-way flow of electricity in that as well as buying electricity from the grid a householder or micro-generator of electricity, will be able to sell it back to the supplier.

But while he insisted that "Ireland is leading the world" with the introduction of smart meters, Mr Ryan indicated that proposals to allow households to sell electricity into the grid as well as buying from it were not as yet finalised.

This has been introduced already in parts of Scotland where commercial customers who have installed wind turbines may sell electricity back into the grid. Indeed this is supported by the British government which pays the "micro-generators" a Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC). The ROC is paid per unit of electricity generated.

Various forms of smart meters have been introduced around the world but few offer the opportunity to domestic customers to sell electricity back to the grid.

In Ireland the project is being led by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is co-ordinating the various departments and companies involved.

The Minister said letters inviting electricity customers to take part would be going out and he urged all customers who receive a request to participate.

"When customers realise how much they can save and the carbon reductions that ensue I believe they will find smart meters one of the smartest devices ever installed in their homes," he said.