Digital billboards are using significantly less energy, on average, than they were four years ago, according to an analysis by the Louis Berger Group. That's good news for the digital out-of-home industry, since high energy consumption (which can result in excess heat, requiring even more energy for cooling) has been one of the main complaints leveled at the burgeoning medium by its critics. It could also make DO more appealing for advertisers by reducing costs, and for billboard owners by boosting profitability.
Energy consumption by 14x48 foot digital bulletins has dropped 61% since 2007, while energy consumption by 12x24 foot digital posters declined 40% over the same period, on average, according to LBG, which focused on billboards manufactured by Daktronics and Young Electric Sign Company (it's not clear whether overall energy consumption by digital billboards has declined; it seems unlikely considering the growing numbers of static billboards being converted to digital every year). YESCO boasted that its billboards use just one-quarter of the power they needed six years ago.
LBG attributed the reduction in average energy consumption to a number of innovations, including brightness controls that reduce brightness at night and improved cooling technology which is replacing costly air conditioning. The switch to LEDs has also resulted in big energy savings in some cases. There are approximately 2,400 digital billboards of various types across the U.S., out of a total estimated 400,000 billboards.
Commenting on the LBG findings, OAAA President & CEO Nancy Fletcher stated: "The outdoor advertising industry is committed to corporate social responsibility and community investment, as evidenced by the findings in this analysis. Digital billboard companies continually strive to enhance product offerings to ensure they are both effective and efficient, and reducing energy consumption is obviously a top priority."
The LBG survey, which was sponsored by the OAAA, comes as a timely rebuttal to a critical study by the Philadelphia non-profit Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight (with the transparent acronym SCRUB) which found that the largest digital billboards can consume 323,773 kilowatt hours a year, or about 30 times the energy required by a typical household.