Smart meters are currently being rolled out to every home, farm and business in Ireland. And with the rollout of smart meters comes smart electricity tariffs. But what exactly is a smart tariff and can they help us cut down on our energy costs?
After a fair few delays and false starts, ESB Networks began rolling out smart electricity meters in late 2019 under the direction of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) - Ireland's independent energy regulator.
The plan is to have every premise in Ireland upgraded to a new electricity meter by the end of 2024.
And with the rollout of smart meters comes the launch of smart electricity tariffs.
Here we explore everything you need to know about these tariffs, but before we jump in, let’s have a brief reminder of what a smart meter is.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is an electronic device used for recording a building’s electricity consumption.
A smart meter will automatically send data on your electricity usage to your energy supplier once a day, which eliminates the need to submit meter readings. And if you want, you can choose to send data to your supplier every 30-minutes, which will allow you to receive near up-to-the-minute information and detailed insights about your electricity consumption. Getting this information will let you know which appliances are costing you the most to run and potentially help you save money.
How does a smart meter work?
A smart meter has a small transmitter and antenna, similar to what you would find in a mobile phone, and uses mobile phone technology, specifically the older and widely available 2G network, to send data on your energy usage to your supplier.
What are the benefits of smart meters?
If you get a smart meter installed, you’ll experience a range of benefits.
- Reducing your energy consumption
- Lowering your carbon footprint
- Not having any more estimated bills
- Not needing to submit meter readings
- Having access to better information on your energy bills
- Having better customer service
- Having more flexible options if you’re a prepay customer
- Having more tariff options
You can learn more about these benefits in our guide on what a smart meter is.
What are smart tariffs?
To coincide with the rollout of smart meters, smart tariffs or so-called 'time-of-use' tariffs have been rolled out by all electricity suppliers, which could help households save even more money on their bills.
At the moment energy suppliers usually charge you the same price for your electricity throughout the day (although those with a night saver meter will be charged a separate night time rate).
However, with the rollout of smart meters, energy suppliers are now able to offer consumers electricity deals with multiple different tariffs to encourage them to move their energy usage to times when electricity is cheaper to produce.
What are the main smart tariffs?
There are three main tariffs charged by suppliers throughout the day:
- Peak energy time (5pm - 7pm): This is when electricity is the most expensive to use.
- Night time (11pm - 8am): This is usually the cheapest time to use electricity.
- Off-peak time: During these remaining hours, electricity is cheaper to use than during peak times.
Some suppliers will offer extra tariffs for:
- Weekends/Bank holidays
- Electric vehicles: These special tariffs may be available for people who need to charge their electric vehicles at home.
Reduced energy bills
As renewable energy like solar and wind continue to make up an ever greater part of our electricity generation, you could even be charged a lower price for your electricity on sunny or windy days, when energy supply is in abundance and cheap to produce.
In other words, the price you're charged for your electricity going forward will more accurately reflect the actual cost of generating it at any given time. And since you’ll be able to monitor your consumption yourself in near real-time, it’ll be much easier to move your usage to off-peak times to take advantage of the lower prices.
Although smart tariffs are still in their infancy, over the coming years expect lots of different tariffs and charging structures to become available, helping energy customers to choose a tariff that's best tailored to their energy needs and usage habits.
When can I sign up to a smart electricity tariff?
Both suppliers even offer tariffs with the option of FREE electricity at certain times over the weekend!
However, you'll need to have a smart meter installed first before you can sign up to a smart tariff. Once the installation is complete, you should be able to sign up to a smart tariff almost immediately, though in some cases you may have to wait up to 30 days in order to give ESB Networks time to start communicating securely with your meter. You’ll need to have your MPRN on hand to switch to a smart meter tariff.
You'll also need to give explicit consent to have your data shared with your energy supplier before you can get the full benefits from your smart meter. So if you have one installed, chat to your supplier to check it's turned on.
Make sure you choose the right tariff
Although smart tariffs offer the lure of cheap or even free electricity at certain times of the day or week, the upshot is that you'll pay a higher price for your energy at other times. Sometimes much higher.
Before choosing a smart tariff it's really important that you know how and when you use your electricity so that you choose the right tariff for you. Otherwise, you could end up paying more for your energy each year.
It's a good idea to chat to your supplier before signing up to a smart tariff to see if they can give you any overview or insight into your energy usage. Also, make sure to ask your supplier what online services, tools and apps they have available to help you monitor your usage after you sign up to a smart tariff. As it'll be largely pointless signing up to one otherwise.
What can I do if I accidentally sign up to a smart meter tariff?
If you accidentally sign up to a smart meter tariff you can't revert back to the standard tariff you were previously on, you’ll only be able to switch to another smart meter tariff going forward.
It's also important to note that if you choose to enable smart meter features when signing up for a new tariff, you are still signing up to a smart tariff so will not be able to change back to a standard tariff either.
The potential of smart tariffs
The much-anticipated rollout of smart electricity meters in Ireland has the potential to be a game-changer for Ireland’s energy customers and suppliers alike.
For customers, the ability to monitor consumption in near real-time could help many households improve their energy efficiency, lower their carbon footprint and reduce their bills.
Smart meters should also bring peace of mind when it comes to energy costs, as well as the convenience of not having to submit meter readings manually.
However, to reap the full benefits of smart meters and tariffs, smart tools and apps and online services will also need to be rolled out by suppliers to help customers view and understand their energy usage better - and this is still in its infancy.
Switch and save
Whether or not you have a smart meter remember that a quick and easy way to save on your bills is to switch supplier with bonkers.ie.
We compare all tariffs, both smart tariffs and normal tariffs, across all suppliers in the market and can help you sign up to a new deal in just minutes.
Head over to our price comparison service here and start saving today.
Learn how to reduce your energy consumption
If you don’t feel like switching suppliers but want to save, here’s a list of helpful articles that will help you reduce how much you spend on your monthly household bills.
- By simply adjusting your habits around the home, you could become more energy-efficient. Take a look at these 16 ways to use electricity and save money.
- Working from home can have a significant impact on your energy, broadband and mobile costs. We’ve compiled a list of 12 ways to save money while working from home.
- Have you considered retrofitting? Improving your home’s energy efficiency not only helps you to reduce your carbon footprint but also means you can save a huge amount on your energy bills. Here’s an overview of finance options and available grants if this is something you’re interested in.