Super Bowl, NOT Super Coal

Was it the duel between two brothers coaching opposing teams? The awesome performance by Beyonce’ and the reunion of Destiny's Child? Ray Lewis' last game? No. What everyone was talking about post Super Bowl 2013 was the power outage!

Let’s get this straight: With over 108 million people watching the most important football game of the year — the third most watched TV program ever  — yielding hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenues, the power in the stadium just happens to go out for over 30 minutes?

The first thought I had was, “Is someone trying to spare the 49ers from suffering a Super Bowl blowout? The second was, “Do I have time to run out and get more snacks?” The third was, “Who’s to blame for this power fumble…the NFL? The City of New Orleans? Beyoncé?”  Well, the fossil fuel industry seems to think they have the answer, jumping at the opportunity to remind us of the need for more coal.

The truth is that officials are just starting to figure out what caused the power outage, according to a recent article by The Times-Picayune.  What is clear is that the stadium had reliability problems which were identified in October 2012 – including decayed feeder lines – and that officials quickly tried to fix them in the months before the game.  Somewhere along the line, something failed – and the new switchgear did its job, shutting down the stadium to save it from a longer blackout.

The bottom line is that no amount of coal would have solved the problem – unless, of course, more charcoal would have meant better tailgate parties while attendees waited for the electrical system to be restored.

In fact, an article in The Washington Post notes that stadiums across the country have avoided blackouts through advanced technology that allows grid operators to identify problems more rapidly and fix the system in real time.  While the Superdome’s electrical system did not seem to have that level of advanced technology, perhaps its game-day tale is a win – without the new switchgear, the blackout may have in total, lasted much longer, and signaled the end of the game.  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, we say “well played” to New Orleans for working diligently to upgrade the stadium in the short time that it had.

Fortunately, while upgrades to the larger electricity system must happen to ensure reliability and reduce pollution, we have the time to thoroughly and thoughtfully upgrade our electricity system – and EDF is quarterbacking the issue to make sure it is done right.  The same smart technology used successfully by football stadiums across the county can be applied on a neighborhood, region, and national scale, avoiding and reducing blackouts, minimizing air pollution, and incorporating cleaner technologies.  The benefits from these investments nationwide are potentially huge – in the trillions of dollars – three times their cost.  With interest rates on savings accounts currently well below 1 percent, this kind of payback is certainly worth the investment in our nation’s economy, health, and –well -football.

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