Do you know how much electricity you use on a minute by minute, hour by hour or even day by day basis?

Do you know what devices in your home use more power than others, or what people?

Do you know how to make savings on your electricity bill by adjusting your behaviour?

If the answer to any of the above is no, then you are likely to benefit from last week's news that the Government is to begin the rollout of smart meters to every home and business in the country - all 2.3 million of them.

With an inbuilt mobile SIM card, the meters will monitor electricity use 48 times a day and then send that data back to the provider.

You, the householder or business owner, will also be able to see the data, probably by way of an app on your phone or tablet.

The information should help you to learn how you could save money by adjusting your consumption behaviour and by enabling you to switch providers more easily.

If you have micro-generation sources in your premises, like photovoltaic panels or a micro wind generator, then you'll also be able to export excess power generated back to the grid and get credit for it.

It will also enable providers to build flexible price plans and dynamic tariffs that reward you for using power at times when demand is lower.

This will help them to predict more accurately when power is needed and when it isn't and that will help reduce our reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity.

There is also the added benefit that the utility companies won't have to send out meter readers anymore, which will save everyone money.

Remote connection and disconnection of premises to and from the grid will also be possible as well as smart pay as you go services.

Eventually gas meters will also be smartened up.

The meters will be rolled out starting in 2019 and the project is predicted to take five years to complete, assuming no hitches.

Those who wish to be early adopters and those whose mechanical meters are so old that they are due to be replaced will receive them first.

But gradually everyone will get one - or so the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) hopes.

The cost of the whole project will be €1.2bn and that will ultimately be paid by us, the users, through a contribution of around €5.50 a year on our electricity bills.

The payback, according to the CER, will be up to four times that if we use the smart meters to the full.

It all sounds fair and reasonable enough, with few obvious risks.

But how many people involved in planning the roll out of water meters and charges thought the same, one wonders?

Did they fully anticipate the backlash that arose when that project began to kick off?

The CER says you can't equate the two as we already have electricity meters and pay for electricity and this is simply an upgrade of the technology which will bring consumer, economic and environmental benefits.

It also acknowledges that consumer engagement will be an important element to the project and that there is a significant job of work to be done to communicate the benefits to the public - a wise observation.

But the CER and ESB Networks will still have to be incredibly careful how they sell this to consumers, many of whom are still on guard following the water charges debacle.

Then there is the vexed question of data protection and privacy.

Experts claim that a trained eye would be able to look at the data coming from your smart meter and tell what time you get up in the morning and go to bed at night.

They would be able to tell when you have a shower, when you are on holidays, when you are at home and when you are not.

That's the type of information that would be manna from heaven for hackers, for burglars, for advertisers who want to call to your door or call you on the phone, and to law enforcement who may want to track your movements.

So designing a system that is private by default, underpinned by legislation, that gathers only necessary information and securely transmits and stores it will be absolutely key.

The CER says it is already working on this and has been for some time and that it is consulting with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Just as well, as any cases of data leaking or being used for the wrong purposes would completely undermine the benefits of the plan.

There's also the issue of consent and whether or not you will have a choice about whether to get a smart meter.

Certainly, if you are building a new home or your old meter breaks, you won't.

But if an ESB Networks engineer calls to your door and says they are there to change your meter, will you be entitled to tell them no thanks?

The CER was vague on this during the week, saying only that it would be in everyone's benefit to have a smart meter.

You will, though, be able to decide whether or not you want to enable it to transmit data to service providers, which is as it should be.

Ultimately smart meters are necessary and useful, provided they are rolled out carefully and properly.

The international experience has been mixed in this regard and Ireland should be able to learn from the mistakes of other countries that are further ahead than we are.

And throughout the whole project, those leading it would be wise to always keep one word close to their thoughts at all times.


Comments welcome via Twitter to @willgoodbody