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Energy-efficient set-tops have saved $168M in electric bills

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:31pm
Brian Santo

The movement to make cable customer premise equipment (CPE) more energy efficient has paid off, saving U.S. cable customers as much as $168 million in total on their energy bills.  

The improved energy efficiency of set-top boxes translated into a savings of nearly 842,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or roughly the equivalent to the output of one-half of a large (500MW) power plant, according to the Voluntary Agreement for Ongoing Improvement to the Energy Efficiency of Set-Top Boxes 2013 Annual Report, which was sponsored by the NCTA and the CEA.

The report calculates that 85 percent of set-top boxes purchased by pay-TV providers in 2013 met the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star 3.0 efficiency levels.  New set-top boxes use approximately 14 percent less energy than those previously issued by the service providers.

The cable industry agreed in 2012 to conform to energy saving recommendations for set-tops, as spelled out in the Energy Star program – the Voluntary Agreement.

The Voluntary Agreement included pledges that would eventually result in annual electricity savings of $1 billion or more, as the energy efficiency of set-top boxes is increased by up to 45 percent. Agreement signatories include 11 cable, satellite, and telco video companies and all major equipment vendors serving 91.9 million U.S. video subscribers, accounting for 91.3 percent of the total market in 2013. In 2013, leading energy-efficiency advocates joined with the pay-TV industry in an expanded version of the Voluntary Agreement.

Other 2013 milestones include:

  • The Voluntary Agreement led to a 4.4 percent reduction in national energy consumption by set-top boxes even as deployed stock increased in 2013.
  • These energy savings are even larger when compared to national energy use projections without the Voluntary Agreement. Against those projections, the improved energy efficiency of the set-top boxes procured in 2013 saved American consumers almost $350 million in energy bills and saved nearly 1,750,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to the output of one large (500MW) power plant.
  • Set-top box purchases indicate early adoption of 2017 goals – 90 percent of purchased set-top boxes must meet a more stringent set of energy efficiency levels called Tier 2. Approximately 47 percent of set-top boxes purchased in 2013 meet the more efficient Tier 2 levels.
  • The industry now offers new whole home DVRs, which are able to deliver live and recorded content to multiple TVs in a home, providing additional energy savings as consumers no longer need a DVR on each TV.  
  • Cable operators have deployed software updates enabling “light sleep” for set-top boxes already in homes and new set-top boxes. Telco providers deployed “light sleep” capabilities, and satellite providers have included an “automatic power down” feature in more than 90 percent of set-top boxes purchased and deployed.

“The Voluntary agreement to reduce national energy use of set-top boxes is off to a great start.  With these improvements the national energy used to power these devices is now going down,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “The great news is that the more efficient boxes save consumers money on their electric bill, reduce pollution, and work even better than the old ones used to.”

“These collective efforts of the cable, satellite, and telephone industries demonstrate a commitment to delivering innovative video services while at the same time saving energy in our customers’ homes,” said Michael Powell, President & CEO, NCTA. “A big part of innovation is making sure we are good stewards of the environment, so these providers and device manufacturers will continue to look for new ways to conserve energy in delivering services.”

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