Friday’s Washington Post provides Op-Ed space to Sunil Sharan, whom they describe in this way:

The writer, a director of the Smart Grid Initiative at GE from 2008 to 2009, has worked in the clean-energy industry for a decade. The views expressed are his own.

Sharan titles his piece "The green jobs myth" and then goes on to warn us, in a tone that is ever so serious and with much hand-wringing, that "The facts challenge the prevailing thinking among some policymakers and officials that green jobs are a principal reason for transforming the economy."

What does he choose as his example of how the green jobs movement is going to eat jobs, rather than create them? He chooses that central piece of the green movement that we’ve all been talking about, the "smart meter". [Yeah, that was snark; I had never heard of smart meters before this column, had you?] Through magical math, Sharan then informs us that the installation of smart electric meters is going to cost us 28,000 meter reading jobs.

But how does he get there? After calculating that installation of the stated goal of 20 million smart meters over the next five years will create 1600 jobs for installing the meters, he then calculates the lost meter reader jobs. The central part of his calculation is here:

Now let’s consider job losses. It takes one worker today roughly 15 minutes to read a single meter. So in a day, a meter reader can scan about 30 meters, or about 700 meters a month. Meters are typically read once a month, making it the base period to calculate meter-reading jobs. Reading a million meters every month engages about 1,400 personnel. In five years, 20 million manually read meters are expected to disappear, taking with them some 28,000 meter-reading jobs.

Really? Fifteen minutes to read a single meter and a reader only reads 30 in a day? What planet does Mr. Sharan come from? Just a few seconds with teh Google found this as an alternative for the work load of a meter reader:

Suczynski is a NIPSCO meter reader.


Suczynski spends five workdays a week crisscrossing front yards, backyards and side yards from Gary to Crown Point with a sense of proprietary right that even a sworn police officer would hesitate to exercise.


This time of year, his trek to read 500 or so natural gas and electric meters per day is often through a foot or more of snow and in temperatures down to 0 degrees. That also means the meter is often shrouded in ice, fence gates are frozen shut, and dogs seem edgier than usual.

Hmmm. Sharan is off by just a bit. What happens to his numbers if a reader is responsible for 500 meters a day instead of 30? That would reduce the jobs lost by a factor of 500 divided by 30, or reduce his estimate of 28,000 jobs lost to 1680 jobs lost. When a realistic workload for meter readers is taken into the calculation, the jobs situation looks to be pretty close to break-even, 1600 created and 1680 lost.

Thanks for playing, Mr Sharan, and please try again some day when we could all use another laugh.