Can the Super Bowl Save the Planet?

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It sounds like a ridiculous premise. A football game saving the planet? But the answer could be 'yes,' if we take what we learn about energy consumption during the Super Bowl and apply it to every other day on the calendar.

That is what a Virginia-based energy analytics company does and sells.

Opower found that energy usage in the U.S. drops by more than five percent during the Super Bowl and as much as 7.5 percent during the half-time show, even though it would take 10 coal-fired power plants to fire all the televisions being watched.

The theory is that people stop doing all the other household, energy-sucking, activities, like laundry, during the game, and they also congregate in one space, leaving lights off throughout the rest of the home. People also attend Super Bowl parties at each other's homes, leaving their own homes powered down. Last year the Super Bowl saved the homeowners a collective three million dollars in energy costs.

That's all very interesting, but how does that help you save money on your energy bill?

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"What Opower does is we work with utilities across the globe to take boring energy data and turn it into interesting insights into people's energy usage and use those insights to communicate to consumers and to change their behavior," says Alex Laskey, president and founder of Opower.

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Opower works with 83 utilities, helping their 50 million customers save money on their home energy bills. They say they will help Americans save over $200 million in the next twelve months, about half of what the solar energy industry saves U.S. homeowners each year. Laskey describes how:

"So instead of a bill that comes at the end of the month that is frustrating and confusing because it's high, and it's too late to do anything about it, you get a proactive alert that might come in text message or a phone call. It says, you know what, it's only a week into the month, but you're on track for a bill that's 40 percent higher than your typical bill, and here are the things you ought to do to make sure you don't have the high of a bill at the end of the month."

Customers will never know these insights come from Opower, because the utilities paying for the information brand it as their own. Whatever the messenger, the message is simple: Studying consumer behavior can help change consumer behavior. That is more important than ever as technology increasingly drives society.

Social media, as much as it connects us ideologically, separates us physically. Just knowing that when we do get together physically, for an event like the Super Bowl or otherwise, we are saving energy, might just change some of our behavior going forward.

Every little bit helps the planet.

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