SAN FRANCISCO -- The effort to develop a smarter electricity grid has created more than 12,560 jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area and could produce many more, according to a new report.
Those jobs will come not just from companies that specialize in smart- grid equipment, such as Echelon Corp. or Silver Spring Networks, but from an older generation of information technology giants moving into the field. Silicon Valley stalwarts Cisco Systems and Oracle Corp. already offer smart-grid products.
"As the smart grid is rolled out, it's going to generate a huge new volume of information," said Tracey Grose, vice president of the Collaborative Economics consulting firm and lead author of the report. "That data will need to be processed and stored, and there you're talking about Silicon Valley's core competency."
The report draws on employment data from January 2009, so it doesn't show how well smart-grid employment fared in the stagnant economy of the past two years. However, Collaborative Economics found that the number of smart-grid jobs in the Bay Area grew 4 percent from 2008 to 2009.
The report was commissioned by the Silicon Valley Smart Grid Task Force, a partnership led by the city of San Jose, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. For the task force, the report is a way to show the smart grid's importance to the Bay Area's burgeoning clean-tech industry.
For PG and E, it's also a way to move past the uproar over the company's wireless SmartMeters. Advanced electricity and gas meters are considered essential building blocks of a smarter electricity grid, but PG and E's SmartMeter installation program has met fierce resistance from people who question the devices' accuracy and safety.
Smart-grid technologies augment the electricity-distribution grid, helping utilities do a better job monitoring its condition, directing the flow of energy and integrating the variable output of wind farms and solar power plants.
Some smart-grid companies design products for homeowners and businesses to monitor and control their energy use.
Counting clean-tech jobs is a notoriously difficult exercise, with different studies producing different numbers based on the types of jobs they do and don't include.
For the smart-grid study, Grose and her colleagues chose to include jobs in solar power and other forms of distributed power generation. They even included solar installers.
"We're definitely looking at the smart grid as an entire system," Grose said.
That choice made a substantial difference in the job tally. Companies that specialize in solar power or other forms of power generation accounted for 59 percent of all the smart-grid jobs in the Bay Area, or 7,430 jobs.
(Contact David R. Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)