The Super Bowl’s Unique Power Play

Electricity Use Tracks Human Behavior on Super Sunday

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While millions of football fans prepare their festivities for Super Bowl Sunday, PJM is planning to serve the unique pattern of energy use that the Big Game inspires throughout its footprint.

PJM is the grid operator for 65 million people across 13 states and Washington, D.C., and its job is to continuously match energy with demand and feed power when and where it’s needed.

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

And then there are special days like this Sunday (Feb. 12), when most of the country will be firing up microwaves, slow cookers, blenders and big-screen televisions to watch the Eagles face the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.

The pattern on Super Bowl Sunday is fairly consistent from year to year. Since the Eagles – and many of their fans – hail from the PJM footprint, let’s look at how energy usage played out in 2018, when Philly’s favorite bested the Patriots 41–33. 

The highest demand hits not when you might think, when 100 million people are gathered around televisions watching the game. It’s when they’re doing everything else before, during and after the main event – like cooking, cleaning up and opening the refrigerator.

Game day generally begins like any other Sunday, with electricity usage firing up as people get out of bed, turn on the lights, make coffee and get ready for the day. Energy demand flattens around lunchtime as people run errands – to stock up on items like chips and beer – or head to parties.

Energy usage starts to climb again around 3 p.m., as hot plates, slow cookers, ovens and blenders begin switching on to the backdrop of pre-game festivities.

All the while, generators on the PJM grid have to be ready to supply that power. (You can see exactly what kind of fuel is powering the grid in real time on our Markets & Operations page or on the PJM Now app.)

A look at electricity use the day of Super Bowl LII in 2018.

A half hour before Super Bowl LII’s kickoff at 6:31 p.m. in 2018, energy usage in the PJM region climbed to 105,706 MW. (One megawatt can power about 800 homes.)

The electrons from this predictable bump are fueling the last-minute flurry of pre-game prep.

During the game, electricity usage falls back as everyone is cheering on their team or yelling at the television.

At the end of the first half, as people get up to use the bathroom, grab a drink or reheat their food, the energy curve goes up, too.

In 2018, when Justin Timberlake took the stage at 8:19 p.m. for a 14-minute performance, energy usage dipped as viewers settled in to watch. That’s likely to happen again when Rihanna appears for this year’s halftime show.

There’s usually a small jump for last-minute prep before the second half starts, and then demand heads back down.

How the curve behaves toward the end of the game depends on what’s happening 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 pursuits.

For Super Bowl LII, energy usage at the end of the game at 10:17 p.m. was 96,109 MW.

After that, there’s a spike as the parties break up, everyone goes back to their own homes and gets ready for bed.

In the Philadelphia region in 2018, demand remained high as revelers continued to celebrate. Whether the birds pull out their second Super Bowl victory remains to be seen.

But whichever team you root for, fans can count on one thing: PJM will be working to keep the power flowing before, during and after the game.