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Job-Stealing Robots




Apart from some apparent butchery at the editing stage -- who von Meier? -- this energy geek enjoyed Jim Hight's piece on smart meters.

However, this article (and all the others I've seen to date on the topic) surprisingly failed to address the employment impact of replacing flesh-and-blood meter readers with electronic devices. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, automation has brought the mixed blessing of increased convenience and productivity along with elimination of jobs.

I expect PG&E will be issuing hundreds, maybe thousands of pink slips as they roll out these new meters, a bitter pill to swallow at a time like this (but likely one of the chief drivers at corporate headquarters for smart meter adoption).

I guess the environmentalist in me can take some consolation in the reduced pollution and carbon emissions from all those meter reader vehicles that won't be driving around.

Richard Engel, Arcata


Ed. reply: The butchery did indeed take place at the editing stage, and was severe. For starters: "Von Meier" is Alexandra von Meier, professor of energy management at Sonoma State University.

Lastly -- and how this happened is still puzzling me -- the final few paragraphs were lopped off the end of the story. They are reproduced -- or "produced," I suppose -- below.


Now PG&E has two or three percent wind and solar on its grid, and it's not a big deal to adjust to the randomness and variability. To integrate a lot more, new approaches will be needed.

The most readily available option is to build more of those inefficient peakers and have them ready to ramp up quickly when the wind dies down at a big wind power farm or clouds block the sun over an area with lots of solar panels.

But what makes more sense to us energy geeks is to have a bunch of consumers ready to reduce electric demand quickly -- or shift it to times when there's a lot of wind or solar power available.

SmartMeters and the smart grid make that possible. "It's a way to integrate more intermittent renewable energy for lower cost," said Jim Zoellick, an engineer at HSU's Schatz Energy Center who is studying renewable energy options for the county.

There's much more to the smart grid, including new appliances and electric vehicles with chips embedded to communicate with SmartMeters and operate or charge when electricity is cheapest -- or maybe greenest. We energy geeks will be watching, and hoping you'll pay attention, too.

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