Not that I need another excuse to get on the sustainability soapbox ...

You may have heard me talk about energy management over the past few years. Once or twice, right? Ever since the debut of the Green Pavilion at Cable-Tec Expo two years ago and the launch of our Smart Energy Management Initiative last year, helping cable to increase energy sustainability and reduce its environmental footprint has been a pillar of our mission statement at SCTE.

Mark DzubanNot that I need another excuse to get on the sustainability soapbox, but there are plenty of reasons why it’s a timely subject for this column. For one thing, we’re fast approaching a series of events that will bring energy management discussion to the forefront of the technical and operations community. More importantly, we’re uncovering new reasons why operators and vendors need to work together to take sustainability to a whole new level. But more on that later.

This month, SCTE will be drawing a bead on energy management when our working groups meet near Dallas. Like everything in Texas, we’ll be doing things in a big way. Sharing sustainability ideas and real-world implementations at our semi-annual SEMI Forum on Sept. 14. Touring Cowboys Stadium to show off the infrastructure work of our host, CommScope. And on Sept. 15, unveiling drafts of cable’s first two energy-related standards – courtesy of our Sustainability Management Subcommittee – as well as discussing standards that will help to shape the design of hardware that comes to market in 2013 and beyond.

At the same time, we’re bringing an expanded focus on energy management and power availability to SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, set for Nov. 15-17 in Atlanta. Terry Cordova, the Suddenlink CTO who’s done a herculean job as Expo Program Committee chairman this year, is ensuring that energy issues will be on the agenda for the opening panel, and that they will be well represented among the 70-plus workshop presentations – more than double last year’s total, by the way – scheduled for this year. And we’re working on enhancements to the Green Pavilion that will increase its value as an educational resource.

What’s the rush? As we get deeper into sustainability, we’re finding that our original SEMI objectives – driving efficiency in the network and our existing operations facilities, as well as recycling outmoded equipment – really need to be only the start of the industry’s commitment. Equally urgent are such issues as power availability, particularly for lifeline and higher-margin business services, and the planning that will be needed as services and powering requirements increase.

We’ve already announced the expansion of SEMI to address power availability and taken a first step toward demonstrating what’s possible. Together with Alpha Technologies and CommScope, we’ve leveraged fuel cell, solar and storage technologies to provide power for a minimum of five days in the event of an interruption in energy from the grid. At Cable-Tec Expo, a joint presentation by Alpha and CommScope will show how our industry can use the same model to deliver the hardened services that will attract Tier 1 business customers.

As important as our existing SEMI objectives are, what’s over the horizon may be the most vital target yet. In the decade ahead, as cable fulfills its promises to provide the resources consumers need for multi-platform content distribution and full telecommunications connectivity, there will be a need for additional hardware and greater availability of bandwidth.

As we work together with our partners at NCTA and CableLabs, it’s critical that SCTE help the industry to understand that rising energy costs plus new services and associated hardware may equal a doubling – or even a tripling – of cable’s energy bill in the years ahead. Long term, I’ve been told, the anticipated rise in powering costs is one of the higher challenges on operators’ collective roadmaps.

The challenge for all of us – and the opportunity for vendors inside and on the periphery of the industry – is to introduce new procedures, new standards and new equipment designs that can take the edge off of those projected increases. From the reconfiguration of existing facilities to the development of new hardware that adjusts power consumption to network needs, we need to make sure that we do everything possible to reduce energy costs and increase the efficiency of our network and operations locations.

While it’s in everybody’s best interest that we work toward greater efficiency in every area of the network, what’s important at the moment is that our industry is taking bold steps to reduce energy use and dramatically lessen our environmental footprint. The steps we’re taking today will have a significant positive impact for operators and the community at large, now and well into the future.