The SCTE is developing a specification for managing the constituent elements of a network, including the ability to power up and power down not just individual systems, but potentially also subsystems, in order to manage and reduce energy consumption.

The approach is being referred to as software-defined energy management.

The basic concept is to be able to monitor individual elements of the network and turn them off or on, or put them into various states of readiness (e.g., "sleep" mode), in response to network traffic conditions. That would be in contrast with running all equipment at full power at all times, even during lulls in network traffic.

The concept is already being applied in some routing equipment, noted SCTE President and CEO Mark Dzuban. But the approach is apparently not being adopted widely or quickly enough to save real money on energy management in the near term.

And there is potential to save real money in the near term, given current pricing trends in energy. The cable industry's aggregate yearly energy bill might be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion by some estimates. The industry is worried that with the way energy prices are going, that could triple in as little as five years.

"That's why we're trying to accelerate it," Dzuban said, referring to the effort to develop software-defined energy management technology. "The MSOs think it's not moving fast enough. So 2013–2014 is the objective to see real hardware become available."

The industry believes that saving $200 million out of that $1 billion total energy tab is feasible. Savings of that magnitude would help the industry achieve the larger goal of keeping energy spending roughly at parity with today's levels (assuming rising costs), if not actually reduce power consumption.

The Society has been directed by the MSOs that provide the majority of its funding to focus on four areas of interest through 2012 and 2013. They include power and energy, specifically with regard to data centers, cable facilities and outside plant; business services; network operations, specifically IP; and CPE, CE, Wi-Fi and untethered devices.

Energy-related issues and the transition to IP networking have been ongoing concerns for the industry and for the SCTE as it works on behalf of the industry developing standards, specifications and best practices.

The SCTE's Sustainability Management Subcommittee (SMS), for example, just announced plans to unveil drafts of its first two standards at its meeting on Sept. 15 in Dallas.

SMS 001 is proposed as the standard for "Recommended Energy Conservation, Sustainability and Efficiency Practices for Critical Systems," and SMS 002 for "Product Environmental Requirements for Cable Telecommunications Facilities." The latter proposal addresses such considerations as temperature, humidity, electromagnetic interference and environmental design.