Ireland’s National Smart Metering Programme began in 2019 with the smart meter rollout starting around March 2021. It aims to install Smart Meters in all homes & businesses in Ireland by the end of 2024, totaling 2.4 million meters installed across the country.
The information around smart meters isn’t very clear, and there is a lot of confusion about smart meters out there right now. So we’ve put together this article helping you to understand smart meters and what they’ll mean for you.
What are smart meters & how do they work?
Smart meters track, display and communicate your electricity usage throughout the day. Traditional meters record your usage over time that you would either need to manually read or have your energy provider estimate for your bill. With a smart meter, your usage is recorded throughout the day and communicated back to ESB and your energy provider. It uses the same wireless technology that your mobile phone uses, so you know it’s not harmful to you.
By recording your usage through the day, it allows energy providers to supply you with energy plans that price your energy based on the time of day. It also means you won’t need to submit energy readings or receive estimated bills from your supplier.
The important thing to remember here though is that you may not receive the benefits of a smart meter if you don’t also sign up for a smart plan from your provider!
The Rollout: Have you got your smart meter yet?
Over 1 million meters have been installed already so the programme is well underway and should reach completion by the end of 2024. If you haven’t already received your smart meter, you can expect it by the end of 2024 and you should receive some notice from ESB when they’re coming to your area. You should get a letter a few weeks before the installation and an ESB technician (or a contractor on behalf of ESB) will then come to replace your meter with a new smart one. All in all, it should be done in less than an hour but your electricity will need to be turned off for the duration.
There is no cost for getting a meter installed, but according to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) the cost of the entire programme (€1.2bn) “will be repaid over time, via electricity charges.”
Do I have to get a smart meter? Can I opt out?
Smart meters are not actually compulsory and you can opt out by contacting ESB with your MRPN. However, the national plan aims to make traditional meters obsolete. So while you can refuse a smart meter, it’s possible you may find yourself in a tricky situation in future if you need a replacement or if energy providers stop providing plans for traditional meters.
Smart meters are not a silver bullet that will suddenly make your energy bills cheap overnight, or drastically reduce the nation’s energy usage.
But they are a smart step in the right direction that allows the user, supplier and the country to have more control over our energy usage and they are just one tool to help in the journey towards a more efficient Ireland.
Benefits/drawbacks of smart meters
|No Turning Back
|Eliminate Inefficient Devices
|Dependent on Phone Signal
|Curb Your Behaviour
|Access Better Tariffs
|Reduce Carbon Footprint
|Support Renewable Energy
|Help the Grid
|You Can Still Switch Suppliers
Visit their webpage above to see the full explanation of each.
Will I save money with a smart meter?
This is the big question many people have. The Irish Times have a great breakdown in this article from October 2022:
So with a smart meter installed I automatically get cheaper electricity, right?
No. Smart meters allow suppliers to charge different tariffs depending on the time of use. That means companies have the capacity to charge less at offpeak times, when energy is less in demand and then more at times of peak demand, such as between 5pm and 7pm.
But I will still save money with a smart meter?Source: The Irish Times
Again, no, or at least not necessarily. For starters, many companies charge a higher standard unit rate to smart-meter customers than the discounted rates on offer to people with standard meters. They may, however, offer other money-saving incentives such as completely free electricity on one day over the weekend. If you were on such a package then you could possibly save money by cramming all your usage of energy-intensive appliances such as your tumble dryer or washing machine into the one free day and then not use them at all on the other six days of the week.
So you can see how smart meters can be confusing. They don’t automatically entitle you to any discounts or cheaper electricity rates – but in the long term, they allow you to better understand your usage and avail of smart meter tariffs which are being increasingly offered by energy suppliers. Once the national rollout is complete, it is likely that these plans & tariffs will become more competitive as every supplier & home in Ireland will be included.
So in the end, you’ll have to make up your own mind about smart meters. The national rollout is well underway and by the end of 2024, we could have a different landscape of electricity supply in Ireland. On the whole, while smart meters won’t deliver immediate benefits to Irish households, they’re an important part of a smarter, more efficient Irish energy grid. We’re not the first country to implement them and will have learned from the mistakes of some others.
Hopefully, as the rollout nears completion energy suppliers will make a concerted effort to introduce attractive smart energy plans for Irish households and work with educating the population on how best to reduce their bills and usage. If you still have any questions, have a look at the frequently asked questions below or get in touch with us.
Smart Meter FAQs
ESB have a helpful video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x964s1NGUmI
Yes! Your meter readings should start to register automatically (although it might take a while to kick in) but in order to potentially avail of savings, you need to have a look at your options and sign up to a smart energy plan if it sounds attractive to you.
You can read what the ESB has to say about Data Protection on their website here. In a nutshell, your energy data must be handled in compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The ESB have the full data protection assessment available to read on their website.
That’s right. It may take a billing cycle or two to get connected and updated, but once up and running the meter will send readings automatically to the ESB network which will be shared automatically with your electricity supply company.
Because smart meters are dependent on the same wireless technology as mobile phones, if you live in an area with poor mobile phone network connectivity, you may experience problems with your meter communicating with the ESB network.
Right now, the rollout is still underway. While you may not cut costs immediately, it could be short sighted to assume you’ll benefit in the long run by avoiding a smart meter. It’s likely that energy plans in Ireland will shift towards a smart-first approach and you may be left with much fewer options than before.
A smart meter just records your energy usage. A smart heating control system gives you more control of how, when and where you use the heating in your home. Smart meters are free but smart heating controls are not. SEAI offer a €700 grant for smart heating controls. You can read more about it on the Home Energy Upgrade Guide section of our website.
Crucially, the smart meter rollout is not just about your individual savings. It’s part of the wider Climate Action Plan which states some important things to consider when thinking about changes to your own energy usage:
- We’re making progress – but we need to move faster
- Climate action is central to Ireland’s economic development
- We have to work together
- Change is not easy
- We can be good at this, and we will be
- Every year counts
- Every person matters, every place matters