To Save Energy, Hit The Pub For Olympics Viewing

Forget about the LED lighting and the R-38 ceiling insulation. The way to drive down electricity use is to put on massively popular sporting events that draw people together to watch in large groups, and to time the events to take place when folks would typically be doing stuff around the house.

That’s the slightly tongue-in-cheek — or maybe it’s hopeful — message from Opower, the energy report and analytics company.

Opower Olympics and UK Energy Use

image via Opower

Using data from 18,000 households served by the British power company First Utility, Opower looked at electricity-use patterns during three big televised sporting events this summer – the June 24 England vs. Italy European Cup quarterfinal; the Wimbledon final on July 8; and the July 27 Olympics Opening Ceremony — and found big departures from normal usage.

The Sunday afternoon Wimbedon final, with the popular Scot Andy Murray taking on Roger Federer, coincided with energy use 7 percent greater than on a typical Sunday afternoon, Opower said.

During the England-Italy match, on a Sunday evening, electricity use was down throughout the 7:30-10:30 p.m. telecast, which drew an audience of up to 23.2 million. In one half-hour period during the match, electricity use was 10 percent below normal. Then when the match ended, electricity use shot up, to 5.3 above normal.

Then there was the Opening Ceremony. From 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., the first half of the ceremony, Brits used 7.4 percent less electricity than usual; but in the following time frame, up until midnight, energy use was  5.1 percent above normal.

Opower Olympics and UK Energy Use 2

image via Opower

Up, down, and all around – is there any rhyme or reason to this? There is, Opower says, linking the variations from normal to the timing of the events, as well as the power of the event to draw big groups together for communal viewing.

The Wimbledon final, you see, was on a Sunday afternoon when electricity is typically low – presumably because people tend to be out of the house. “The Andy Murray final changed that pattern,” Opower says. “Millions of Brits who would have been outside of their homes were instead glued to the tube and consuming electricity at home that they otherwise would not have.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.