The company claims with great fervor that smart meters are accurate to a nano-kilowatt; home owners beg to differ, saying their electric bills have risen 20%-30% or more since installation with no change in their California lifestyles.
At first I thought the complaints were of no consequence since the early ones came from central valley Californians who suck a lot of juice in the summers to cool themselves and drain our state of natural gas–the type from the ground–in the winter.
In the past several weeks, though, a small group of San Francisco Bay Area residents have made the same observations. So PG&E is investigating why “smart” devices are raising utility bills.
Before smart meters sprung to life, including one at my residence, PG&E hired a legion of meter readers to stare at old grimy, probably inaccurate, analog meters, most of which had been in use for decades and probably were as accurate as an old watch.
Combine old technology with the monotonous work of meter readers scanning thousands of numbers each day and you have a disaster in the making. In other words, humans given a rather measly task, were probably no smarter than the new meters.
Wireless smart meters made me ponder the number of such electronic devices that have invaded our lives. We have smart phones, houses (the ones that virtually maintain themselves with little human effort), appliances that are programmed to use as little electric juice as possible and intelligent (?) cars that, in the future, will probably drive themselves. We are living in a world of “thinking” gadgets that off-load the necessity of human smartness.
The one similarity among all these devices is the computer chip embedded in their bellies. Like personal computers, smart devices–wireless or wired–would be rather dumb, I think, and not work very well, without at least a 100Mhz chip processing data quickly.
Then there’s the philosophical argument whether “smart” also means “intelligent,” a quality usually but not always found in humans. That’s a debatable issue, I realize, and will probably at some future point end up in the Supreme Court after a smart device sues a human.
I do relish the thought, however, that if these devices in our lives are indeed bright we might replace a number of bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers and others with them. That could result in better decision-making and creative leadership, while saving lots of electricity, not to mention the natural gas spewing forth from the mouths and other orifices of those who lead us now.
Yes, despite initial problems of smart meters, I believe the republic will greatly benefit from this kind of technology in the decades ahead.