Smart meter trials begin in Ireland

Smart metering has begun in earnest in Ireland, with 6,500 households taking part in trials across the country.

The next generation of meters replace their mechanical predecessors and will provide real-time information on energy use allowing customers to see where, and when, they are using electricity - and potentially adjust their habits to make savings.

Trials began on January 1.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is running the trial and says that participants will also receive 'Smart Bills' that will contain additional information on electricity consumption and costs, including hints and tips on how to improve energy efficiency and save money, average daily usage graphs and tables displaying costs o running the main appliances at different times of the day.

CER is trying to persuade consumers that smart meters win in three key areas.

  • Information: smart meters record customers' actual use of electricity over short
    intervals and automatically sends the readings back to their supplier. Electricity suppliers can use these readings to deliver useful information to their customers regarding their electricity consumption and costs.

  • Efficiency: smart metering will allow electricity suppliers to create innovative pricing arrangements that can be offered to consumers to support the efficient use of electricity, such as Time-of-Use electricity tariffs. This is where the price of electricity varies at different times of the day to reflect the changes in the costs of producing electricity.

  • Lower Costs: smart metering offers the possibility of lower costs for customers. Time-of-Use tariffs enable customers to respond to price signals and take advantage of electricity produced at cheaper times of the day.

    Some participants in the trial will also be receiving "Smart Web" access and In Home Displays (IHDs) - these are small devices which display real-time information on current electricity usage and costs in the home.

    It is expected that the range of initiatives being trialed will help consumers to better manage their electricity consumption so as to improve their energy efficiency and cut their energy costs.

    The trials will run throughout 2010 and will inform decisions in relation to an optimal design for a full rollout of smart meters.

    Sam Bond

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