Changing Careers: Meter Readers - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Changing Careers: Meter Readers

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GREENWOOD, Del. (WBOC)- Every month a bill shows up in the mail from your electric company saying how much you owe and how much power you used. There was a time when the only way for the utility to determine those numbers was for someone to physically come out and read your power meter.

It might not come as a shock that new technology has dramatically reduced the need for those good old-fashioned meter readers.

Bryan Tindley spends his days reading numbers. So, let's talk numbers:

  • 27 - the number of years Tindley has been a meter reader for Delaware Electric Cooperative.

"When I first started, the process was you had to read every meter manually with a pad and pen or pencil - the old-fashioned way," he said.

  • 1,000 - the number of meters Tindley sometimes used to read in a day.

"Anywhere from 300 to 1,000 meters - depending on where you were during those times Now it's a maximum of 300 to 400 a day," Tindley said. "It takes about the amount of time to read 300 meters as it did to read 1,000 at that time because of the travel time.

  • 10 - that's the number of meters readers DEC used to have.
  • 3 - the number of meter readers it currently has.

"Ten years ago if you wanted to know a meter reading, you had to send a meter reader out to physically look at the meter," said Brad Ebaugh, manager of metering and power supply for DEC. "Now, from the office we can send a signal to the meter, and it responds back with a reading."

That simply means the co-op needs fewer people to do the physical looking.

"We have about 90,000 meters," Ebaugh said. "We can read 97-98 percent of them in any given month. That leaves 3 percent that need to be read manually."

That might be because the meter is too remote or because it's not functioning properly.

Even though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a drop in meter reader jobs of about 19 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022, Ebaugh says power companies will likely always need at least a few meter readers, like Tindley, even if not as many as they did before.

And Tindley plans to keep doing this for while if the powers that be allow.

"As long as there are no hurricanes, I'll be fine," Tindley laughed.

Ebaugh says all the people in the company who lost their jobs as meter readers have been absorbed into other positions at the co-op. So, there hasn't been any actual reduction in overall employment stemming from the technological changes in this area.

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