By 2020 householders and businesses will be able to monitor their energy consumption and carbon emissions using “smart meters”.

Smart meters allow precise readings to be taken remotely and offer householders real time energy consumption information, ending the need for estimated bills and on site meter readings.

As part of the government's Great British Refurb, every home in Britain, and several million businesses, will have smart meters installed by 2020.

The government hopes that the new devices will change the country’s energy habits, and claim that it could save between £2.5 and 3.6 billion.

The government has launched a consultation into how to roll out the initiative that, it is estimated, will affect around 26 million homes.

Ed Miliband, secretary for the department of energy and climate change, said: “The meters most of us have in our homes were designed for a different age, before climate change.

“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.”

The proposals have been welcomed by business leaders.

Neil Bentley, director of the business environment at business lobby group CBI, said: “Enabling businesses and consumers to know exactly how much energy they are using with smart meters will encourage them to think about how they can reduce their energy use and cut bills.

”With 40% of the UK’s carbon emission coming form buildings, smart metering will play an important role in reducing emissions.”

Philip Wolfe, director general of the Renewable Energy Association, also welcomed the news. Wolfe said:“The smart meter roll out is vital for the success of Renewable Energy Tariffs which are due in next year and which will make it easy and affordable to use renewable energy in your home, office or neighbourhood.

“By offering consumers the ability to see exactly what energy they are using smart meters lay the foundations for far greater consumer empowerment, including the ability to earn money by generating your own green energy.”

The government has set out roll-out options for the smart meter installation. The preferred option would see energy suppliers responsible for the installation and maintenance of the devices, but with communications to and from the device monitored by a third party across the UK.

The consultation is open until 24 July 2009. For further information click here.