What Exactly is a Smart Meter?
First of all, we need to understand old-fashioned electricity meters. Old-style electricity meters are very simple: The only thing they do is keep a tally of how much electricity has been used since the meter was installed. Just like the odometer on your car. Smart meters tally up your electricity usage too, but they also do more than that. Firstly, smart meters not only tell you how much electricity you used, but they also tell you when you used it. Secondly, smart meters connect to the mobile phone network so they can communicate wirelessly with the ESB. For the moment though, both of these features come with a catch (more on that later).
The Benefits of Smart Meters
1. Automatic and Precise Meter Readings
The first benefit is that the ESB will be able to read your meter without needing to visit your house. This will eliminate estimated billing and cut down on meter-reading costs. Eventually, these savings will be passed on to you, the consumer.
2. Night-Rate Metering
People tend to use less electricity at night. This makes night-rate electricity cheaper than day-rate electricity. However, you currently have to get a special night-rate meter installed before you can take advantage of night-rates. Unfortunately though, a night-rate meter costs around €200. This is where smart meters come in. Because smart meters keep track of when you use electricity, they will allow you to take advantage of night rates without having to pay for a night-rate meter.
3. Time-of-Use Metering
Time-of-use metering takes the idea of night-rate metering and goes a step further. With time-of-use, your electricity price varies based on several different time-slots within the day. For example, there might be a low price during the night, a medium price during the morning and daytime, and a peak rate price from 5pm to 8pm. In the future, prices might even vary in real time. For example, your supplier might use an app to offer you lower prices when there’s surplus wind power on the grid. Ultimately, all of these tactics help us to use the electric grid more efficiently, providing lower bills for everybody.
4. Selling Surplus Power to the Grid
As well as measuring how much electricity you consume, smart meters will also let you measure how much electricity you are producing. According to Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, this will allow those of us with solar PV systems to get paid for surplus electricity by 2021. Read more about selling your surplus power.
When Will I Get my Smart Meter?
The ESB has already started installing smart meters in Irish homes and the plan is that everybody will have one by 2025. However, you have the option to contact the ESB and request to get your smart meter sooner.
What’s the Catch?
Smart meters aren’t actually so “smart” for the moment. For the rest of 2020, smart meters will have to be read like ordinary electricity meters. Only in 2021 will the meters be connected to the mobile network to allow for automatic meter readings. Worse still, for the rest of 2020, smart meters will not be able to do night-rate metering. For those of us with night-rate tariffs, that means we’ll have to stick with old-fashioned meters until at least 2021.