I write software that is used for “Smart Grid” systems. One of just a few companies in the world who have been doing this before “Smart Grid” was the big buzzword.
Like most things that are new and somewhat controversial, there is a lot of misunderstanding, fear, and speculation. By and large, the vast majority of smart meter projects implemented thus far only allow the DMS (Distribution Management System) of the utility to collect total consumption at the meter.
The real intelligence provided by appliances and devices in the household (or consumer) is still very rare in most places.
As far as the loss of meter reader jobs go, as you might expect, there is also a lot of misinformation, mostly from Union shops who don’t like change. In every single smart meter project that my company has done and the ones I can think of that others have done, in every case, while the “meter reading” job was phased out, the “meter readers” were offered, sometimes years in advance, the opportunity to be trained, for free, to move into different and often better positions in the utility.
No jobs were “lost”-- in otherwords, those people weren’t just fired or laid off-- they were offered to be moved at company expense and taken care of.
For example, the more ambitious readers were sent to school to become linemen or engineers, engineering techs, IT folks, or similar. There were always those who could not fathom doing anything other than reading a meter. Those savings are real.