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Energy meters save just €20 a year

A GADGET that promised to help householders dramatically reduce their power bills has only provided a saving of €20 a year.

The results of a trial have shown that 5,600 households cut just 2.5pc from their annual €800 electricity bill by using 'smart meter' technology.

This is because they continued using washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers in the peak 5pm-7pm period, when electricity is more expensive to produce.

The smart-meter trial aimed to show people the financial savings they could make by using appliances at off-peak times, when electricity is cheaper to produce.

Smart meters show how much power is being used in the home or premises, and when. An internal memory stores consumption patterns, meaning the daily use can be broken down on an hour-by-hour basis.

Some households cut 10pc from their bills by using appliances at off-peak times, resulting in annual savings of €90.


But many failed to significantly change their habits despite being shown how they could cut costs.

In January, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) began a 12-month trial of smart meters in 5,600 homes and 600 small businesses.

The pilot showed that overall power use fell by 2.5pc, with a 9pc reduction at peak times. If every home in the country reduced consumption by the same rate, the cost of generating the electricity would fall by €150m, it concluded.

SEAI spokesman Dr Brian Motherway said households were divided into four groups and given different levels of information about their electricity use.

One had no access to daily and hourly consumption, the second received the information in their bi-monthly bills while the third could access the information online in real time.

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The fourth group were given an "in-home display unit", a wireless box that showed to the minute what was being used. They were also charged using two rates: peak and off-peak.

"In theory, we pay a standard rate per unit of electricity, but generating electricity costs more at peak times because we're using older generating plants," Dr Motherway said.

Under the trial, said Dr Motherway, "instead of paying 20c in the peak, you paid 12c in the off-peak. That gives you a financial incentive to put the washing machine on at 7.30pm instead of 6.30pm, in peak."

Using less power would help bring down the cost of electricity because older power stations, which cost more to produce electricity, would not need to be turned on to meet peak demand. That could lead to a saving of €100m a year, the ESRI found.

The reduction would also lead to a bidding war among suppliers, which could yield further savings of €60m a year.

Meters cost about €100 to install. The SEAI is now completing a trial of gas meters, after which the Commission for Energy Regulation will advise the Government as to whether it should roll out a national metering programme.

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