ESB Networks needed the right partner to help deliver a national network of smart meters, part of the growing area of the Internet of Things (IoT).
As part of the National Climate Action Plan, ESB Networks is upgrading all the electricity meters in Ireland. The aim is for up to 2.4 million homes, farms and businesses to receive a new smart meter at no additional cost by the end of 2024.
ESB Networks needed to find the right connectivity provider who could support the rollout of smart metering on a national scale.
An important goal of smart meters is to help Ireland become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. So, how will smart meters help us realise a low carbon future?
First, they give customers greater access to accurate information on energy usage and allow them to exercise greater control over their energy consumption. “When consumers get more information, they can better manage how they use electricity,” says Michael Byrne from Retail Market Services in ESB Networks.
This view is reflected in trials where consumers with a smart meter reduced consumption during peak demand. This, in turn, takes pressure off the national grid to help ‘beat the peak’ at times when overall electricity consumption is highest (especially between 5pm and 7pm) and when the additional demand often means that a higher percentage of electricity generation has to come from fossil fuels.
The data collected by smart meters helps electricity suppliers to develop new pricing models to suit their customers’ consumption patterns and lifestyles. “Suppliers can expand their service offerings, for example, by buying wholesale electricity at competitive prices during off-peak times and passing the value on to their customers through innovative Time-of-Use electricity tariffs. They can both provide savings for consumers and attract new customers as a result,” says Michael.
Smart meters also allow for more accurate billing and reduce the need for manual meter readings, customer-provided meter reads, and estimated bills.
Providing smart metering on a national scale is a challenge that ESB Networks and Three are tackling together.
ESB needed a partner to help deliver smart meter services across the country. Three, the largest IoT provider in Ireland, won the tender for the business in January 2019 and the first smart meter was installed in August just a few months later.
“We’re delighted to be a part of such a critical national project,” says Eoghan Patton, IoT Account Director at Three.
A lot of work went into the development of the right solution. “This is a very complex project with a lot of different stakeholders,” says Michael. “Three have been superb to work with.”
This sentiment is echoed by Maurice Foley, Meter Integration Team (MIT) Workstream Lead. “Three were fantastic to collaborate with. They worked with ESB and the various stakeholders to deliver the right solution.”
Three have also stepped up for ESB Networks in the area of logistics. “We have over 400 people on the ground installing 10,000 units per week,” says Michael. “Three have been great in the critical area of supply chain management, making sure the right components get to the right place at the right time.”
The one millionth smart meter was installed in October 2022, meaning Three and ESB Networks are well on the way to reaching every home and business in Ireland.
The strength of the Three network was also key. “We needed a network that was reliable and available,” says Michael. “We needed a service provider that had the reach, the coverage, and the penetration to connect to as many of our customers as possible. We needed a nationwide solution and Three were able to provide that.”
Smart meters are already helping customers in the relatively new area of micro generation, recording the electricity that goes back into the electricity distribution system from customers that have small-scale generation sources, like domestic solar panels, at their premises.
Microgeneration is still on a fairly small scale in Ireland but is expected to increase significantly in the years to come. “The model for the future will be to collect surplus electricity generated at your home and redistribute it locally where it’s needed”, says Michael. “People will be able to export their home generation and receive a return on it from their electricity supplier.”
The upgrade to smart meters will also allow ESB Networks to identify technical issues quicker and manage the electricity network more efficiently, making it easier to diagnose problems and address potential network issues.
What’s more, meter readings will be readily available to support key customer services more quickly and effectively. “For example, the information from smart meters will make doing things like changing electricity supplier or managing the billing switch when moving home much easier for customers,” says Michael.
Smart meters are also a stepping stone to the development of smart grids which will eventually support the electrification of heat and transport. This digitisation of the grid will help Ireland become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly on our way to a zero carbon future.
All this wouldn’t be possible without smart meters underpinned by the Three network.