Hydro Quebec has selected Swiss firm Landis+Gyr to supply so-called 'smart' meters to monitor electrical usage in homes and businesses throughout Quebec.

The utility will start installing the meters in Montreal in 2012, and by 2017 hopes to have them installed everywhere in the province.

Hydro Quebec president Isabelle Couture said many current meters are approaching the end of their useful life, so it makes sense to install meters that can be read from a distance.

"We're in a situation where we have to change 50% of our meters anyway, so we can do it by using the current technology or we can do it by using a new smart meter technology. If we use a new technology, we'll save $300 million over time," said Couture.

Landis+Gyr will supply 3 million meters at a total cost of $350 million, and a second company yet to be named will provide an additional 800,000 meters.

The shift to remote readings means that 725 employees will lose their jobs, but Couture says the company will find other work for them to do within the utility.

ADQ public finance critic Francois Bonnardel will provide his opinion of the deal between Hydro Quebec and the Swiss firm Thursday afternoon.

Smart meters have not been without their critics. Other electrical utilities started installing them several years ago, and some residents saw their monthly bills increase because the meters are more accurate.