In a previous blog posting on this site on June 3rd, I asked the key questions of “How many net jobs can really be created over the next several years? What are these positions and where in the value chain will they emerge?” While readers may not have had sufficient reason to respond, we should also review what has happened in the industry in just the past 30 days alone.

First, both Google and Microsoft have cancelled their initial forays into the smart grid arena. As discussed last week, we should carefully monitor whether this becomes a disturbing trend for the energy industry.

Second, regulated utilities in California have filed their smart grid deployment plans, as required under Senate Bill 17, which (among other items) required PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E to file smart grid deployment plans on or before July 1 of this year. Combined, the three large utilities are forecasting a total spending of at least $6.7 billion in order to achieve even higher levels of benefits for their consumers. What remains unclear, however, is whether the CPUC will actually approve of these plans.

Third, as reported on July 1, President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is seeking industry feedback to immediately apply initiatives that will generate new jobs in the energy economy. What has been reported since this event has not been clear, in terms of where or how these initiatives are being pursued.

Fourth, the White House released its own policy framework for smart grid, clearly making grid modernization a priority foundation to foster energy independence and a cleaner environment. But missing thus far is the legislative action to move forward on a bi-partisan energy policy that will turn these ambitions into reality.

Clearly, these are mixed signals on where smart grid and AMI spending is heading. With some AMI systems already being deployed, can we say yet whether enough net new positions have already been created? How would these positions be changed given the new focus on smart grid (with an apparent shift to distribution automation spending) during the new forecast period and recent trends? What is your view?

By Rob Wilhite

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