May the most energy efficient team win: Seattle defeats Denver in this year’s Efficiency Bowl

  • By Barry Fischer
  • January 29, 2014

If your NFL team wants to go to the Super Bowl, it helps to have an efficient quarterback.

Just look at this year’s matchup. First off, Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson holds the NCAA single-season record for “passing efficiency” — a composite calculation based on completions, yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and passing attempts.  And Wilson’s nemesis in this Sunday’s game, the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning, is the second most efficient passer in NFL history

As a company built on promoting efficiency, we vigorously applaud Wilson and Manning’s achievements. Our real expertise, however, is not in passing efficiency — but rather in energy efficiency. And so with Super Bowl XLVIII just days away, our question is: how do Denver and Seattle stack up on energy efficiency?

Which city and team are committed to getting the most out of their energy consumption while being good environmental stewards in the process?

Based on the various exciting plays made in this year’s Efficiency Bowl, one thing is clear: Denver and Seattle are among the best cities in America when it comes to efficiency and clean energy. But just like in the Super Bowl, there has to be a winner. And this year that honor goes to Seattle and their Seahawks.

Seattle appears to edge out Denver in several key categories. The Seahawks’ hometown is served by the nation’s first carbon-neutral utility; their stadium meets 30% of its energy needs through solar panels; and the city overall gets 90% of its electricity from hydropower. Sure, the hydropower fact may arise from an “unfair natural advantage” of Washington’s climate and topography (i.e. Colorado isn’t endowed with the same degree of precipitation and elevation changes that enable large-scale hydroelectricity). But the Efficiency Bowl — like the Super Bowl — doesn’t have any rules against unfair natural advantage.

Furthermore, in late 2013, a comprehensive study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranked Seattle as the 5th most efficient US city.

To its credit, Denver puts on a strong showing in a number of areas: the Broncos’ hometown has the nation’s 4th highest square footage of certified green buildings; Sports Authority stadium recently reported an 11% reduction in annual energy use (just shy of the 12% reduction reported by the Seahawks’ facility); and their utility Xcel Energy is America’s top utility for wind power. Also, as suggested by its large amount of installed solar energy capacity to date, Colorado has one of the nation’s biggest focuses on expanding clean energy output: its large utilities’ electricity portfolios are required to be 30% renewable by 2020.

If you’re wondering why we expect both Denver and Seattle to save electricity during this year’s Super Bowl, check out our data analysis from last year showing how the game reduces home energy use.

Congratulations to both Seattle and Denver on making it to this year’s Efficiency Bowl, and best of luck to them — and their highly efficient quarterbacks — this Sunday in New Jersey!

Special thanks to Ashley Sudney and Aaron Tinjum.

Follow @OpowerOutlier on Twitter


[1] ACEEE City Efficiency Scorecard (2013)

[2] SEIA Solar Industry Data (Q3 2013), Seattle Electricity Generation Mix

[3] Sports Authority Field StoryCenturyLink Field – Defend Your Turf

[4] Xcel named top wind utility, Seattle City Light Spotlight

[5] Cleanedge US Clean Tech Leadership Index (2013)

[6] Hourly Record – American Wind Energy Association (2013);  Daily Record – Puget Sound Energy (2013)

[7] State Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (ACEEE, July 2013)

[8] Based on estimated 5% usage reduction over 3.5-hour game, city-specific household counts from 2010 Census, and state-specific annual usage extrapolated to hourly usage

[9] Nationwide Study on Potential of Behavioral Energy Efficiency (Opower, 2013)

Author’s note: The analysis and commentary presented above solely reflect the views of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of Opower’s utility partners.

About Outlier

Outlier explores trends in how people are using energy in the US and around the world. Pulling from an unprecedented (and still growing) amount of energy data—currently drawn from 50 million homes—Opower crunches energy-use information from more than 90 utility partners every day, and cross-references that with weather, household, and demographic information to produce compelling analyses in the Outlier series.