Energy-efficient pay-TV set-tops have saved consumers $500M over two years, report claims

Energy-efficient set-tops have saved American consumers $500 million on their power bills in the two years since the cable industry enacted a voluntary energy-savings initiative, a report released by the NCTA claims.

The major driver, the report said, is a 33 percent decline in the weighted average of energy consumption for DVRs, which are typically the biggest energy hog a cable company puts in the home. Also, 95 percent of set-tops deployed by operators in 2014 met the federal government's Energy Star version 3.0 standards. That was a 14 percent uptick over 2013. These set-tops use 14 percent less energy, on average.

The second annual report, independently conducted, the NCTA said, by D&R International, highlights results of a voluntary program initiated in 2012 by 11 leading pay-TV operators accounting for more than 90 percent of U.S. pay-TV subscribers, as well as consumer electronics companies, various advocacy groups and the Department of Energy.

The plan was to cut set-top energy use by as much as 45 percent -- the equivalent of three large 500-megawatt power plants' worth of yearly output -- and save consumers as much as $1 billion annually on their electric bills.

The NCTA released a similar study last year at this time indicating that consumers saved around $168 million in 2013 because of energy-efficient set-tops.

"The Voluntary Agreement on set-top box energy efficiency is yielding energy savings for consumers and the nation," said Jennifer Amann, buildings program director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). "New set-top boxes offer updated designs and new features while reducing energy use and consumer energy bills. By meeting the commitments of the Voluntary Agreement, pay-TV companies are demonstrating that energy efficiency and product innovation go hand in hand."

Other findings in this year's report: The improved energy efficiency achieved by set-top boxes in 2013 and 2014 avoided nearly 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Specific improvements cited in the report have been the integration of "light sleep" modes, which power down boxes when not in use. Firmware that enables this feature was downloaded to an additional 6.8 million set-tops that were already in homes at the time the agreement was forged in 2012.

An automatic "power down" feature has been included in every satellite TV set-top deployed since 2012. The report also cited multi-room DVRs and cloud-based products offered by cable companies, which limit the need of customer premises equipment.

"Light sleep" mode has been downloaded to an additional 6.8 million set-top boxes already in homes prior to the implementation of the Voluntary Agreement.

An automatic "power down" feature has been included in every set-top box purchased by the satellite providers in 2014.

Multi-room DVR, network and cloud offerings by cable, telco and satellite providers have greatly expanded, enabling consumers to record and watch programming throughout their homes.

The use of apps to watch pay-TV programming on tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and other devices (without set-top boxes) has exploded in growth.

The set-top initiative exists side-by-side with the SCTE's Energy 2020 program, which is also attempting to dramatically cut power consumption on the network side of the pay-TV business over the next five years.

For more:
- read this NCTA press release

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