The Super Bowl has been described in many ways, primarily according to one’s opinion of the National Football League’s annual championship game.
Grand. Spectacular. Hyped. Excessive.
And, just when you think you have heard them all, we humbly add another description. At CPower, we see the Super Bowl as: “A lesson in the electric grid’s need for championship-defense-like flexibility, and the supportive might of the Customer-Powered Grid®.” Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
All joking aside, Super Bowl Sunday is a microcosm of macro energy trends. That is: Our power grid needs more flexibility to balance supply and demand, and customer-sided resources, aggregated into Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) can help.
Customers drive electricity demand.
In recent years, PJM, the nation’s largest grid operator, has published blog posts detailing the ebbs and flows of electricity demand on Super Bowl Sunday and PJM’s management of those shifts. Its most recent post about how the Super Bowl plays into electricity use notes, “ 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 goes on to explain that “like any other Sunday in February,” electricity usage gradually increases as people begin the day before plateauing at lunchtime. Demand ramps up again in the late afternoon as people finish chores and cooking before the game, then dips after the game starts.
Although the game is regularly one of the most watched TV events, it also is “mostly about collective watching,” Popular Science noted in an article about how we may not use more electricity than usual on Super Bowl Sunday.
So, while you may think that electricity would surge during the game as more people tune in, in fact, it drops as friends and family gather to watch the game together and—glued to their couches and barstools–keep their refrigerators shut and other more energy-intensive devices off. Think more people around fewer TVs.
Enter grid flexibility.
Grid flexibility critical for handling variability in demand.
Analyses of Super Bowl Sunday and electricity demand have found somewhat predictable patterns like those that PJM points to, with enough variability to keep grid operators on their toes. This combination of predictable and unpredictable variability in power use underscores why flexibility is only becoming more critical to support how we work and play.
Flexibility refers to the grid’s ability to maintain balance in uncertain conditions through rapid adjustments in supply and demand, as in unexpected, extreme weather that may force power plants offline or more-predictable behavioral changes—like the daily commute, or a big football game.
These rapid changes are challenging because if power supply and demand are unequal, the resulting imbalance could cause brownouts or blackouts. Or, put more simply: the lights go off.
Super Bowl Sunday or not, balancing the grid is increasingly hard because electric demand—from EVs, new industrial and computing loads and heat pumps—is expected to rapidly rise, just as aging, primarily fossil fuel plants are reaching their end-of-life and being replaced by intermittent renewable supply like wind and solar. Grid operators need flexible resources that can ramp up quickly to meet these changing needs.
Grid flexibility will continue to come in several forms; but distributed, demand-side solutions—dubbed DERs (distributed energy resources) and VPPs—are key to a smooth energy transition. In aggregating customer DERs and dispatching them together, VPPs offer a path to a clean, flexible and dependable energy future.
That future is not necessarily far off either. One could imagine that the variability of customer needs on Superbowl Sunday could soon be further balanced and smoothed by DERs like smart appliances and EVs that take a timeout for the busy pre-game prep, but run the hurry-up during the grid’s in-game lull— invisibly optimizing grid use to deliver more reliable, more affordable and clean energy for all.
As the nation’s largest DER monetization and VPP operator, CPower is creating the Customer-Powered Grid® that will enable a flexible, clean and dependable energy future. Call us at 844-276-9371 or visit CPowerEnergy.com/contact to learn how we can help you most effectively invest in DERs and participate in VPPs to support sustainability, improve grid reliability and increase energy resiliency.
Senior Vice President, Strategy & Business Development
Over the last 15 years, Mathew has developed a proven track record of building cleantech businesses through investment, partnership, and organic sales growth. He served with National Grid Ventures as Vice President for Distributed Energy, and has led originations for KRoad DG, a private equity platform focused on energy; Yingli Green Energy as Vice President, Corporate Development; Vice President, Sales & Commercial Operations; and Director, Business Development. Mathew graduated With Distinction from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management Master of Business Administration. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from SUNY Buffalo with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering