Super Bowl 2012: A Power Play

The New Year is upon us, and President Obama has delivered his State of the Union address, which offered high-level insight on the energy sector in the US but was reminiscent of messages we’ve already heard. Now it’s time to turn our attention to another really important event of the year: the 2012 Super Bowl. As always, this year’s game will be a staggering display of athleticism and energy consumption (rather than verbiage and applause). These two things, generally not discussed in the same conversation, offer a more nuanced look at the energy sector here in America.

Every year the stats at the Super Bowl pile up like Tom Brady’s passing yards, including the kilowatt-hours (kWh) consumed. The 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, Texas set a record, becoming the most highly viewed television program in American history. Almost 16 million people tuned in, consuming roughly 11.3 million kWh through television sets alone, according to a report by General Electric. That’s enough electricity to power all the homes in three NFL cities – Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Dallas – for 10 hours.

While many fans are focused on the number of touchdowns or turnovers, they’re generally unaware of the statistics they post in their own homes, through their electricity consumption. On a wider scale, this lack of awareness plagues the energy efficient home market, the consequence of forces on both the supply and demand side. Traditionally, consumers’ utility bills have not provided actionable information, making it difficult to interpret their consumption and how to reduce it. Simultaneously, home builders and renovators haven’t been able to articulate a sensible value proposition for energy-efficiency measures.

Appliance designs have made considerable gains in energy efficiency, but these gains are eclipsed by the proliferation of consumer electronics, like LCD televisions and digital video recorders (DVRs). According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 50 million U.S. homes have more than three TVs, and more than 45 million (40 percent) homes have a DVR. The power consumed by appliances and electronics grew from 17 percent of average home energy use in 1978 to 31 percent in 2005, according the EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey. Advances in energy efficiency have historically mattered less to the American consumer than the newest entertainment device.

There is a chance the American consumer has started to pay attention, however. Major organizations like the NFL have started highlighting residential energy efficiency – like investing in 800 free home energy audits in the Indianapolis area. And according to a recent Yahoo Real Estate poll the American homebuyer’s dream home might be more energy efficient and constructed of sustainable materials.

Currently, there’s little incentive for consumers to tune in to their energy consumption. Engaging the American public through the most popular entertainment forums (e.g. the Super Bowl) and by using devices and outlets they already love (e.g. televisions and social media) may be the ticket to unlocking the energy efficiency potential in the residential sector.

Article by Brittany Gibson, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.

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