The ESB is preparing to start a €1.2bn national roll-out of smart meters to businesses and households, beginning in parts of Cork and the greater Portlaoise area.
Details of the roll-out in Co Cork were announced by the company yesterday and include 10,000 properties in the Carrigaline, Passage West, Macroom, Clonakilty, Ballyvourney, Grenagh and Blarney areas, as well as parts of Ballincollig.
ESB officials unveiled their plans at a special information meeting held at the Carrigaline Court Hotel.
ESB project manager Jason Byrne said they plan to install the smart meters in the Co Cork pilot areas from September onwards and to have completed nationally within the next five years.
The company will be writing to householders and businesses from July 15 informing that they have been chosen for the meter upgrade.
The properties selected will be primarily those with older meters and there will be no upfront charge to customers for the upgrade.
The ESB is using three contractors nationwide for the project. The Co Cork meters will be installed by Transmission Link Ireland, a company based in Tralee.
Each meter will take on average 45 minutes to install and will provide ESB networks with up to date information on usage and this roll-out follows eight years of research.
The project is part of the government's strategy to save energy and in few years, customers will be able to avail of tariffs which will reduce their bills if they use more electricity outside of current peak hours, which are 5pm-7pm.
It will also allow people with small solar panels and wind turbines to “export” any excess energy they produce to the company and the meters will also be able to inform the ESB of supply faults.
The meters will provide real-time information to customers and ESB Networks, which means that householders and businesses will know exactly what they are spending, rather than having to wait for meter-readers to call to them four times a year for billing purposes.
It will also make it easier for a customer to change supplier as suppliers will have access to their data at a push of a button and the ESB says this will enhance competition.
Mr Bryne said consumers will be able to make more informed choices about their consumption and the best tariff option for them.
The environment will benefit because smart metering will encourage energy efficiency and support an increase in renewable power on the electricity system.
"The economy will benefit because using smart meters will help us more efficiently manage energy flows at times of high demand,” Mr Byrne said.
It is envisaged that 250,000 smart meters will be installed in the country by the end of 2020 and this will rise to more than 1 million by the end of 2024.
It's expected that more than 700 million smart meters will be installed around the world by energy companies by the end of next year.
Mr Byrne said the upgrade programme would help cut carbon dioxide emissions and lower Ireland's costly reliance on fossil fuel imports.
The installation of the meters in the Cork and Portlaoise areas should be completed by the end of December.