Is it true that Tom Brady — one of the most efficient passers in NFL history — may have schemed his way into the big game? That’s the well-documented controversy surrounding the kickoff of this year’s Efficiency Bowl. We aren’t NFL insiders, so we can’t formally comment on the pigskin pressure problem that is “Deflategate.”
We are, however, experts in utility innovation. And there’s no deflating the fact that both Massachusetts and Washington are national leaders in clean technology, consumer engagement, and energy efficiency. So, with Super Bowl XLIX just days away, how do the two teams — their stadiums, fan bases, cities, and states — stack up when it comes to getting the most out of their energy use? Let’s take a look.
From the Bay State’s aggressive energy savings targets to the Evergreen State’s impressive integration of renewable energy sources, it’s clear that this is an extremely close contest. But just like in the Super Bowl, there must be a winner. And this year, the Efficiency Bowl trophy goes to the New England Patriots. New England appears to narrowly edge out the reigning champs, Seattle, in several key categories. Massachusetts’s innovative utilities — led by Opower’s utility partners Berkshire Gas, National Grid, NSTAR, and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) — earned a perfect score for energy efficiency in 2014, according to a nationwide study; the Gillette Stadium complex is covered by a whopping 700,000 square feet of white roofs to reduce the need for air conditioning; and, Massachusetts continues to run one of the nation’s most aggressive energy savings plays, aiming for a 2.6 percent incremental reduction in electricity use every year. Of course, Massachusetts’s dominance in energy innovation shouldn’t be a total surprise: an annual study conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has ranked Massachusetts as the most efficient state for four consecutive years. And a parallel study in 2013 recognized Boston as the country's most efficient city.
To be clear, Seattle is no energy slouch — it just met a very formidable opponent. As we highlighted in last year’s matchup against Denver, the Seahawks’ hometown is served by the nation’s first carbon-neutral utility, Seattle City Light; solar panels deliver 30 percent of CenturyLink Field’s energy needs; and a whole six of Washington’s utilities — which includes Avista Corporation, Clark Public Utilities, Cowlitz Electric, Pacific Power, Puget Sound Energy, and Seattle City Light — are empowering their customers with the personalized energy insights and advice they need to save energy.
That approach has already helped Washingtonians slash more than $15 million off their electric and gas bills. While New England will take home this year’s prize, we predict that both teams’ fans and viewers across the country will be saving electricity during Super Bowl XLIX. Why? Because our large-scale statistical analysis shows that America’s most watched sporting event helps push residential electric demand to about 5 percent below normal levels. Congratulations to both New England and Seattle on making it to this year’s Efficiency Bowl, and best of luck to both teams this Sunday in Arizona!
Special thanks to Barry Fischer and John Lee.
Data References:  City Energy Efficiency Scorecard (ACEEE, 2013), State Energy Efficiency Scorecard (ACEEE, 2014)  Interview with Jonathan Kraft (Cleantechnica), CenturyLink Field - Defend Your Turf  Massachusetts State Sheet (ACEEE), Seattle City Light Spotlight (Opower)  Based on Opower utility partners in Massachusetts (Berkshire Gas, National Grid – Mass, NSTAR, Western Massachusetts Electric Company) and Seattle (Avista Corporation, Clark Public Utilities, Cowlitz Electric, Pacific Power, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle City Light)  State Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (ACEEE)  Based on an estimated 5% usage reduction over 3.5-hour game, city-specific household counts for Boston and Seattle from 2010 Census, and state-specific annual usage extrapolated to hourly usage  Nationwide Study on Potential of Behavioral Energy Efficiency (Opower)  Current Installed Wind Power Capacity (U.S. Department of Energy - Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)  U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index (Clean Edge, 2014)  U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index (Clean Edge, 2014)  Electric Charging Station Locations by State (U.S. Department of Energy - Alternative Fuels Data Center)
Author’s note: The analysis and commentary presented above solely reflect the views of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of Opower’s utility partners.