NCAA Basketball Tournament - the Winners and Losers in Renewables

March 31, 2015



With all the hype over the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, (an estimated 70 million brackets were filled out this season,) everyone is looking for a new angle on how to determine the winners.  While it has proven not be the most successful way of picking teams for actual, on the court, victories, staffers at RMI, (Rocky Mountain Institute,) made their bracket selections based on renewable energy statistics.


Upon releasing the initial tournament bracket, RMI collected renewable energy information of the utility servicing the main campus of each team in the tournament.  There were some challenges in deciding upon a fair ranking system due to the numerous variables at play, for instance: to rank by installed capacity or actual energy generation, how to give credit for on-site generation, what types of renewables to include, and so on.  The rules for determining rankings they decided upon are as follows:


  • We collected data from the most recent year available (typically 2013), based on the percentage of renewable energy in the utility supply. (Note: for some utilities, only the percentage of capacity was available. While we realize this isn’t quite a fair comparison, energy supply data was not readily available for some utilities.) We recognize that many utilities added significant renewable resources in 2014, but not all have published last year’s data yet. Also, for the Texas teams served by competitive retail suppliers, we used the ERCOT system average.
  • Tie-breakers, when and where necessary, were based on the 2014 Green Guide or other data on campus-sited renewables (such as KU vs. WSU and Villanova vs. Lafayette).
  • We included large-scale hydro as a renewable resource, but readily admit that it gave a big boost to certain teams, such as those from the Pacific Northwest.


(Leherman and Sherwood)

Renewable Energy Bracket

In conducting their research, staffers commented on the glaring disparity between available data on renewable utilities, (being extremely difficult to locate at times,) and the ease of accessibility of data on players and teams.  Researchers did prevail, however, and used all information available to come to the conclusion that Texas, Oregon, UC-Irvine, and Eastern Washington would make up the renewable energy Final Four.  To compare these statistics to those actually pertinent to the game of basketball, however, the likelihood of  these four teams making it to the final rounds were 2% Texas, 1% Oregon, and less than 1% for both UC-Irvine and Eastern Washington.

While it is not recommended to use their analysis in your own pool's bracket, it is definitely worth a look at the article on RMI's blog, written by Senior Associates Matt Lehrman and James Sherwood.  Moreover, it is important to recognize those leading the way for renewables, particularly those in the universities of our country, as they often represent the future of technology.

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