January 17, 2020
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Patriots’ comeback lit up New England — literally

Mark J. Rebilas | REUTERS
Mark J. Rebilas | REUTERS
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston.

PORTLAND, Maine — The New England Patriots’ highly improbable comeback Sunday didn’t look like any other game in NFL history, but the celebration that came after was familiar to regional electric grid operators.

After major factors such as weather, regional grid operators factor high-volume media events such as the Super Bowl into their forecasts.

“An event as large as the Super Bowl syncs up the actions of a majority of people in New England, and because of this, electricity consumption spikes and dips throughout the game,” the regional grid operator ISO-New England wrote in a blog post last week.

Even better, the grid operator had the Patriots’ late and dramatic 2015 win to look to for guidance.

“[T]o forecast demand for the big game on Sunday, forecasters look at consumer demand trends from past Super Bowls,” the grid operator wrote.

They didn’t know then just how closely those patterns would align.

Power demand ticked up after the Patriots’ victory around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, showing a similar trend of demand in 2015 as the clock approached midnight.

That was quite different than New England energy demand for Super Bowl L in 2016, a contest between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.

For total demand, weather made a big difference between 2015 and 2017, and energy efficiency may play a role, too.

While there appears a late resurgence in firing up televisions and microwaves, the trend after kickoff was more grim. With 5 p.m. as a starting point, electricity demand was trending about on par with 2015, also with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. Very quickly, as the Atlanta Falcons dominated the first half of the game, those trends diverged.

While the trend has something to do with enthusiasm around the game, certain rhythms persist like clockwork. Whether featuring Patriots or not, halftime and commercials produce reliable trends the grid operator said “are unique to the Super Bowl,” and come from millions across six states moving in sync with the day’s common drama.


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