Smart electricity meters are to be introduced to every home and business in Ireland, after permission was given for the plan to proceed.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) says the initial phase of the rollout will commence in 2019, with all 2.3 million customers receiving the meters by 2024.

The project will cost €1.2 billion, with electricity customers ultimately footing the bill over time.

According to the CER, electricity customers will pay around €5.50 extra on their bill annually over a 20 year period.

However, the regulator estimates that each premises will see savings of three to four times that from use of their smart meter.

Smart meters are next generation internet connected devices for recording and monitoring energy usage and will replace older mechanical meters.

They allow users to monitor their electricity usage closely and switch providers more easily.

They also enable those providers to offer more personalised tariffs, read meters remotely and predict demand for power more accurately.

The meters are also expected to help the environment by reducing the amount of energy used by people.

Other European countries including the UK, Sweden, Norway and Italy have already begun to roll out smart meters to users.

A pilot programme was run in Ireland in 2009 and 2010, during which time around 8,000 homes received network-connected smart meters.

The trial found that, on average, those using the meters saved 3% on their bills.

Now, following a long consultation process and a detailed cost benefit analysis that showed the investment represents value for money, permission has been given for the rollout to proceed.

This means the procurement process for the technology can begin.

Initially, around 250,000 premises will have the meters installed in 2019 and 2020, with 500,000 more receiving them in the four subsequent years.

People who request them, and homes and businesses that need to have older near end of life meters replaced, will be prioritised.

CER Commissioner Aoife MacEvilly described the meters as an upgrade to the next phase of technology, which, she said, will eliminate the need for physical meter reads and deliver better data results.

She said the third phase of the project, sometime around 2024, will see gas meters being upgraded.