Dublin, Ireland --- (METERING.COM) --- August 3, 2009 - A key milestone has been achieved in Ireland’s smart meter project, with the completion of the customer recruitment and meter installation and the start of the benchmark data collection period for the electricity customer behavior trial.

In addition the scoping and planning of the gas customer behavior trial was completed in June, enabling the customer recruitment process to start.

In its second information paper on the project Ireland’s Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) reports that by June 2009 the required number of 6,139 customers – 5,375 residential and 764 small to medium enterprise (SME) customers – had been recruited for the electricity trial.  

At the same time the smart meter installations, started in December 2008, were also completed and the secure channels to provide data from this system to electricity suppliers put in place. Half hourly profile data is now being collected by this system every day for each customer.

The objective of the electricity customer behavior trials is to ascertain the potential for various smart metering enabled energy efficiency initiatives to effect measurable change in consumer behavior in terms of reductions in peak electricity demand and overall energy use. These initiatives will include time-of-use tariffs, the provision of enhanced and more frequent information on electricity usage and costs via billing, the web and dynamic display units, and financial incentives to encourage reduction in overall electricity usage.

The smart meters being used in the trial, with GPRS communications built in, are from Elster. In addition an IT system from Energy ICT for remotely managing the meters and collecting and managing the meter data has been installed.

The six-month benchmarking period began on July 1 and will continue through December, with the collection of current electricity usage data for trial customers. Thereafter a 12-month test period will begin on January 1, 2010, with the introduction of the energy efficiency initiatives, and a findings report will be published in February 2011.

In the gas customer behavior trial up to 2,000 meters will be installed, the majority to residential customers and a small subset to SME customers, to supplement results from other international SME trials, particularly in Britain. The residential recruitment will start in early-August and it is hoped that it can be completed by the end of September.

Thereafter the benchmarking data collection period should start on December 1 running through May 2010, with the trial period starting on June 1, 2010. Energy efficiency initiatives to be introduced will take the form of new tariffs to encourage more energy efficient usage of gas as well as enhanced and more frequent information on gas usage and costs for customers, similar to the electricity trials.

The contracts to vendors to provide smart gas meters, in-home communications hubs, metering head-end and data management services, and in-home display units are in the process of being awarded.

In addition to the customer trials, a separate set of technology trials are being undertaken in Ireland in order to establish the maturity and likely level of performance of different communications technologies in the Irish environment. A distributed line carrier (DLC) trial using meters and systems from Sagem, with meter installation set to begin this month, will involve approximately 2,000 meters in Limerick and Ennis. A radio frequency (RF) 2.4 GHz trial using meters and systems from Trilliant/Iskraemeco is also set to begin this month involving approximately 2,500 meters in Cork city and Bandon. A RF 868 MHz trial using meters and systems from Elster/Energy ICT is set to begin in late 2009 in Dublin South and Wicklow. A power line carrier (PLC) desk-top study is also underway by Aclara.

Other smart metering related activities under way in Ireland include an analysis of opportunities for expanding and improving prepayment arrangements in the Irish electricity and gas markets with the objective of agreeing a smart metering prepayment market model, and a micro generation trial involving up to 4,000 customers.

Data from all of these trials will feed into a cost benefit analysis on a full national rollout of smart metering in Ireland, which is expected to be finalized in March 2011.