The cable and consumer electronics industries, energy efficiency groups and the Department of Energy have struck a deal on voluntary energy efficiency standards for set-top boxes that they say will result in "significant energy savings for more than 90 million U.S. homes" while avoiding regulations that cable operators had argued would hurt, not help.
The new standards -- including energy-use monitoring by pay-TV providers -- are predicted to boost set-top box energy efficiency between 10% and 45%, depending on the box, by 2017.
That is expected to translate into more than $1 billion annually, a figure that could grow with the growth of whole-home devices and increasing demand for DVRs and HD set-tops.
The standards agreement applies to all types of boxes from pay-TV providers: cable, satellite and telco. Energy use monitoring will be subject to an independent audit. DOE also reserves the right to test the boxes under the federal Energy Star verification process.
“As Americans increasingly rely on more electronic devices and gadgets, managing energy consumption is both an environmental and economic priority for consumers and industry alike,” Michael Powell, NCTA’s president, said in a statement. “The cable industry is working hard to improve the overall consumer experience and we are proud to develop solutions that will reduce our energy footprint and result in real energy savings for millions of consumers.”
Also signing on to the agreement were the Consumer Electronics Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. Multichannel video providers onboard include Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems, Bright House Networks and CenturyLink.
Back in June, NCTA asked DOE to pause an effort to come up with government-mandated energy efficiency standards because such regulation would foreclose innovation and "sabotage" a voluntary agreement among equipment manufacturers and the top multichannel video providers.
Under the voluntary agreement reached last fall, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and CenturyLink – along with consumer-equipment companies Cisco, Motorola, EchoStar and Arris – said new set-tops would meet Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star 3.0 levels. Devices that meet that standard are 45% more efficient than ones that don't, according to the EPA.
Also, "light-sleeper" mode software will be employed by cable operators to more than 10 million DVRs already in use, and satellite operators will include a power-down feature in 90% of the set-tops they deploy.
Energy conservation advocates did not sign on to that agreement, and the Energy Department restarted the process, which will now officially be terminated with the agreement to the new standards.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has been pushing for the standards, praised the agreement, but said she would monitor its progress to insure industry follows through.
“In 2011, I urged the CEOs of every major television service provider to work together to introduce more energy efficient set-top boxes," the senator said in a statement. "At the time, set-top boxes were costing Americans $3 billion in electricity charges each year -- with $2 billion wasted when televisions were not being used. Today’s voluntary announcement demonstrates the television industry took this matter seriously, and I commend industry and efficiency advocates for agreeing to make 90% of all set-top boxes as efficient as today’s most energy efficient boxes by 2017.”
She said she would “monitor the situation carefully to ensure the industry remains committed to building on today’s substantial progress in future years.”
The National Resources Defense Council issued a statement by Noah Horowitz, one of the lead negotiators for the voluntary agreement and a senior scientist and director of the Center for Energy Efficiency at NRDC: “This historic agreement promises to put $1 billion back in the pockets of U.S. consumers every year because the new set-top boxes will use less energy. We appreciate the industry’s renewed commitment toward making the devices that bring pay TV into 90 million-plus U.S. homes more efficient and look forward to working together to reduce their future energy use.”