How the Super Bowl Plays Into Electricity Use

Human Behavior Drives Power Demand Around Big Game Rituals

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While more than 100 million people are watching Super Bowl LVIII this weekend, PJM will be tuning in to the unique pattern of energy usage that the pregame, halftime and postgame festivities produce throughout the region.

As the country’s largest grid operator, PJM’s job is to continuously match power supply with demand, transmitting electricity the second it is needed to the 65 million people it serves across 13 states and Washington, D.C.

Regardless of how the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs perform in Las Vegas – or how many times Taylor Swift pops up on your screen – PJM will be prepared. Its operators were doing this for decades before Super Bowl I in 1967 saw the same Chiefs lose to the Packers.

On the day of the Super Bowl and every day, PJM is constantly forecasting customers’ needs. After weather and historical usage comparisons, human behavior is the biggest factor in this equation. PJM considers people’s routines during certain seasons, holidays, days of the week and times of the day.

And then there’s the Super Bowl.

The pattern on Super Bowl Sunday is pretty consistent, but it might surprise you; see the accompanying chart that details the pattern of demand during last year’s Chiefs-Eagles Super Bowl. (All times are approximate.)

It’s not the 70-inch televisions tuned in to the game that drive up electricity use, but fans’ preparations before the game, last-minute prep during halftime and cleanup after it’s over. That’s when electricity is powering ovens, crock pots, microwaves, refrigerators, hot-water heaters, dishwashers and other energy-thirsty electric appliances.

Game day starts off like any other Sunday in February, with electricity use climbing as people wake up, turn on lights, make coffee and get ready for the day. It then flattens out around lunchtime, coinciding with last-minute trips to the store or travel to parties. Around 3 p.m., energy usage starts heating up, along with the food being prepared for the main event and pregame revelry.

Kickoff, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., marks a drop in electricity use as folks settle in to watch the game. At the end of the first half, there’s a bump as people get off the couch, open the fridge for a drink, reheat the wings and replenish their plates.

As halftime performer Usher takes the stage Sunday night around 8:30 p.m., the demand curve will drop again for another 15 or 20 minutes, as it did last year when Rihanna performed high above the field in State Farm Stadium.

After another momentary flurry of activity in homes and bars across the country when the halftime show ends, the demand for electricity will continue to decrease until the last bump at the end of the game.

That’s when folks will be cleaning up, heading home or preparing for bed.

How the curve behaves toward the end of the game depends on the action on the field. If it’s a tight game, demand will remain low until the end. If it’s a blowout, folks will leave the TV, start washing dishes or turn to other activities.

All the while, PJM dispatchers will be coordinating with generators to reliably serve the electricity needs of the biggest power grid in the country. You can find real-time conditions of load, generation fuel mix and more on the Markets & Operations dashboard or on the PJM Now app.