The numbers are in and the competition was not even close. Last Sunday, the best Super Bowl ad was the one for back-up power. While other ads may have exhibited more charm and humor, the ad for back-up power lasted 34 minutes, as against 30 seconds for most other ads. And best of all, the ad for back-up power was free. Other advertisers shelled out an average of about $4 million for each 30 second slot.
Back-up power has received a lot of free advertising recently. Super Storm Sandy brought the message home to millions on the East Coast this fall. Winter Storm Nemo may be highlighting the same message, and unfortunately to many of the same customers, this weekend.
Tongue and cheek aside, it reflects poorly on the advanced battery industry that, with a product so clearly needed and so clearly wanted by so many electric consumers, the industry relies solely on free advertising to deliver its message. The message that the industry needs to deliver is clear: While battery back-up power systems are by no means a complete solution to power reliability problems, they can provide a margin of power and comfort in moments of grid interruption that would be welcomed and highly valued by millions of American consumers.
At our Annual Meeting last month in Austin, Dr. Imre Gyuk of the U.S. Department of Energy noted that several communities on the East Coast, in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, set aside money towards the purchase of battery back-up power systems for their critical municipal infrastructure. The storm, noted Dr. Gyuk, made those communities painfully aware of the shortcomings of diesel and natural gas-powered back-up systems. Battery-powered systems, they now realized, are a cleaner, more reliable alternative.
The message about the benefits of battery-powered back-up systems is a message that the advanced battery industry needs to act proactively to get out, rather than relying on the vagaries of Mother Nature to do so. The message, however, is not one that can be delivered by any individual company. The message is, after all, about a technology, not a product. But the companies in the industry can and should come together to deliver that message collectively. The industry needs to let American electricity consumers know about a technology that will deliver a product that consumers already realize that they need: reliable back-up power. And consumers need to know that technology developed to provide that back-up power will eventually migrate to automotive applications, making electric vehicles cheaper, more powerful and more attractive to consumers.
In the residential and municipal market for reliable back up power, the battery industry, which has been reeling from a string of recent bad news, may be staring a new billion dollar market in the face. It is time to stop staring and to start acting.