Set-top boxes

Cable's Challenge to Go Green

In June 2014, a Los Angeles Times story warned that cable and satellite set-top boxes (STBs) have become "power hogs" inside of homes. The article said, "The seemingly innocuous appliances -- all 224 million of them across the nation -- together consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock. They have become the biggest single energy user in many homes, apart from air conditioning."

While the Times' assertion is debatable, the article was a stinging reminder that cable's efforts to "go green," which began in earnest more than five years ago, still have a long way to go. Dozens of cable companies and suppliers have taken steps to save energy and costs for themselves and their customers, as Heavy Reading first reported in January 2010. But those individual efforts have largely been sporadic and uncoordinated across the industry as a whole.

Now the industry is embarking on its most ambitious effort ever to cut its energy consumption and associated costs, according to a new Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, "Cable Challenged to Cut Energy Consumption & Costs."

Dubbed Energy 2020, the initiative sets specific energy reduction goals for the next five years, including reducing equipment power consumption by 20%, cutting associated energy costs by 25% and decreasing cable technology grid dependency by 10%. Organized by the Society of Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE), various multiple system operators (MSOs) are heading up 10 areas of energy management, from density and vehicle fleets to air cooling and alternate energy. The initiative aims to provide measureable results and sharing of best practices.

This report analyzes the prospects for Energy 2020 and related green efforts. It includes profiles of six companies that are offering various energy management products and services specifically to the US cable industry.

Today cable is spending more than $1 billion a year on energy and those costs are forecast to approach $4 billion by the end of the decade, according to SCTE's analysis. Unless significant steps are taken, power utilization will increase by 280% and cable's cost of energy will grow to nearly 300% of current expenditures by 2020, SCTE said.

During an Energy 2020 session at the recent SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, MSO executives called upon technology suppliers to provide equipment that meets the energy-saving goals. "We don't want to keep increasing our environmental footprint and be in a place where we'll need cranes to move everything around because it's so dense, and where we'll have to have a power plant next to our facilities," said John Schanz, chief network officer and executive VP for Comcast Cable and a leader of Energy 2020.

This report discusses a related industry effort, the STB Voluntary Agreement, which counts 11 cable, satellite and telco service providers among its signatories. So far, the initiative has saved American consumers about $168 million in energy bills related to set-tops, according to an annual progress report. Service providers are well on their way toward purchasing STBs that meet energy-reduction goals, the report said, but increased functionality in devices "will likely consume more energy, making achievement of [a higher-performance] requirement challenging."

The need for the energy reduction goals of Energy 2020 are clear, Heavy Reading says, but the industry is challenged to maintain the diligence and cross-industry cooperation that are required to deliver those results.

— Craig Leddy, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider

Cable Challenged to Cut Energy Consumption & Costs, a 13-page report in PDF format, is available as part of an annual single-user subscription (six issues) to Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, priced at $1,499. Individual reports are available for $595. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/cable.

kq4ym 12/30/2014 | 1:10:35 PM
Going Green - How About Shutting Down Those Devices? In an effort to watch my home energy useage with my recently installed smart electric meter, I've been shutting down any boxes and appliances not being used to see just how low I can get my monthly bill. It's been fairly easy to just hit the off button on many devices, but I was surprised that lots of gadgets actually don't have off/on buttons and have to be unplugged. My Roku box is largely unused for dozens of hours daily but no off button, for example. And those plug in 120v to 12v "wall wart" converters.

Granted these don't use all that much electric but hitting an off button when not using it doesn't take that much physical energy either. I would guess manufacturers at some point will come to some agreement how to keep those devices turned off when not in use.
GregW333 12/30/2014 | 8:52:19 AM
Here's a quick overview of the voluntary STB agreement http://greywale.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/greywale-communique-STB-010614.pdf
Sign In