THE smart-metering system launched by the Government yesterday might save money in terms of more efficient electricity supply - but the cost to the consumer of running the machines could make receiving the power more expensive.
The Department of Energy is putting the new meters into 25,000 homes on a pilot programme and if they are successful they will be rolled out nationwide within five years.
Do not have to be read manually at the customer's house as it can communicate between the supplier and consumer.
Can connect, disconnect or limit a customer's electricity load remotely.
Provides the customer with real time information on their electricity usage and can allow them to decide to use electrical equipment at a cheaper time of the day.
Once in place the suppliers will be able to put in more detailed variations in pricing tariffs for each part of the day.
According to Energy Minister Eamon Ryan, people do not know how much electricity they are purchasing at any given time of the day, or at what price.
"It is time that people become aware, through a device in their homes, of the electricity they use and how much it will cost.
"Smart-meters help customers to manage their electricity usage much more efficiently and flexibly. They will help us in reducing both our carbon emissions and electricity bills.
"Smart-meters have many other benefits. These include better methods of selling power back to the national grid for micro-generators (those with solar or wind power generation).
"They also equip electricity suppliers with real-time information. Along with more accurate billing for the customer it means that suppliers and customers can work together to manage demand."
However, while the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) backs the introduction of the meters, it admits the cost of the actual technology could see electricity prices rising.
"The price may increase because of the extra cost of installing and operating the meters," it said in a consultation document.
The cost of the meters has been put at 250 or more per meter and with many of the one million ESB customers having more than one meter, trade union sources at ESB say the overall cost could be as much as €300 million.
A CER spokesman said the pilot programme launched yesterday would involve a full cost analysis of the technology.