Government predicts net benefits of between £2.5 billion and £3.6 billion over the next 20 years

All homes in Britain will have smart meters installed by 2020 under plans published today. Great Britain will be the first country in the world to have an overhaul of this size for both electricity and gas meters.

Smart meters enable meter readings to be taken remotely and together with a display device give householders real time information on their energy use.

The Government has today set out the different options for rolling out the revolutionary kit across Great Britain and on what the smart meters should be capable of doing.

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “This is another part of our Great British Refurb. The meters most of us have in our homes were designed for a different age, before climate change. Now we need to get smarter with our energy.

“Smart meters will empower all consumers to monitor their own energy use and make reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions as a result. Smart meters will also mean the end of inaccurate bills and estimated meter readings.

“This is a big project affecting 26 million homes, and several million businesses, so it's important we design a system that brings best value to everyone involved.”

The preferred roll-out option is the central communications model - where energy suppliers are responsible for the installation and maintenance of the smart meter but the communication to and from the device is coordinated by a third party across the whole of Great Britain.

The other principal models considered are:

* Competitive model - where energy suppliers manage all aspects of smart metering, including installation and communication.

* Fully centralised - where regional franchises are set up to manage the installation and operation of smart meters with the communications to and from the meters managed centrally and on a national level.

The consultation is open to the public from today and will run to 24 July 2009.

Based on its Consultation Impact Assessment, the government estimates that rolling out smart meters to all households will deliver net benefits of between £2.5 billion and £3.6 billion over the next 20 years.