Energy Efficient Set-Top Boxes Saving Consumers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

A new report released today shows that the voluntary set-top box energy conservation agreement between the pay-TV industry, consumer electronics manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates has saved American consumers approximately $168 million in energy bills. According to the Voluntary Agreement for Ongoing Improvement to the Energy Efficiency of Set-Top Boxes 2013 Annual Report, the improved energy efficiency of set-top boxes also represents a savings of nearly 842,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. This is equivalent to the output of one-half of a large (500MW) power plant.

Eighty-five percent of set-top boxes purchased by pay-TV providers in 2013 met the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR 3.0 efficiency levels.  New set-top boxes use approximately 14 percent less energy than those previously issued by the service providers. Other 2013 milestones include:

The Voluntary Agreement led to a 4.4 percent reduction in national energy consumption by set-top boxes even as deployed stock increased in 2013.

These energy savings are even larger when compared to national energy use projections without the Voluntary Agreement. Against those projections, the improved energy efficiency of the set-top boxes procured in 2013 saved American consumers almost $350 million in energy bills and saved nearly 1,750,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to the output of one large (500MW) power plant.

Set-top box purchases indicate early adoption of 2017 goals – 90 percent of purchased set-top boxes must meet a more stringent set of energy efficiency levels called Tier 2. Approximately 47 percent of set-top boxes purchased in 2013 meet the more efficient Tier 2 levels.

The industry now offers new whole home DVRs, which are able to deliver live and recorded content to multiple TVs in a home, providing additional energy savings as consumers no longer need a DVR on each TV.

Cable operators have deployed software updates enabling “light sleep” for set-top boxes already in homes and new set-top boxes. Telco providers deployed “light sleep” capabilities, and satellite providers have included an “automatic power down” feature in more than 90 percent of set-top boxes purchased and deployed.

“The Voluntary agreement to reduce national energy use of set-top boxes is off to a great start.  With these improvements the national energy used to power these devices is now going down,”said Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “The great news is that the more efficient boxes save consumers money on their electric bill, reduce pollution, and work even better than the old ones used to.”

“These collective efforts of the cable, satellite, and telephone industries demonstrate a commitment to delivering innovative video services while at the same time saving energy in our customers’ homes,” said Michael Powell, President & CEO, NCTA. “A big part of innovation is making sure we are good stewards of the environment, so these providers and device manufacturers will continue to look for new ways to conserve energy in delivering services.”

“The Annual Report is an important obligation of the Voluntary Agreement,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “It provides transparency, public accountability and a progress check on this non-regulatory initiative designed to deliver comprehensive energy and related cost savings for consumers and the country, while also protecting innovation and competition within our industry. The consumer technology industry is proud of the progress we have made to date in partnership with pay-TV providers to increase the energy efficiency of set-top boxes, as our industry continues to reduce our environmental footprint and increase sustainability.”

In 2012, the pay-TV industry initiated a Voluntary Agreement that would eventually result in annual electricity savings of $1 billion or more, as the energy efficiency of set-top boxes is increased by up to 45 percent. Agreement signatories include 11 cable, satellite, and telco video companies and all major equipment vendors serving 91.9 million U.S. video subscribers, accounting for 91.3 percent of the total market in 2013. In 2013, leading energy-efficiency advocates joined with the pay-TV industry in an expanded version of the Voluntary Agreement.

One of the requirements of the Voluntary Agreement is the publication of an annual report, which was conducted by D&R International. The Independent Administrator, hired and funded by the Voluntary Agreement Steering Committee following a competitive bidding process, collected data directly from service providers before aggregating and incorporating the data in the report.

Highlights of Annual Report on Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement

Energy Savings. The Voluntary Agreement reduced national annual set-top box energy consumption 1.4 TWh (4.4%) even as deployed stock increased. This reduction represents a consumer savings of approximately $168 million and CO2 savings of 842,000 metric tons.

Procurement Commitments. Although procurement commitments are not in effect until 2014, 85% of service providers’ 2013 set-top box purchases met ENERGY STAR Version 3.0 standards. Approximately 47% indicate performance at more efficient Tier 2 levels that take effect in 2017.

Light Sleep. Cable providers deployed software updates enabling light sleep for set-top boxes already in homes. Two Telco providers added a light sleep feature to their DVR set-top boxes.

Automatic Power Down. Satellite providers included Automatic Power Down in more than 90% of set-top boxes.

Whole-Home Systems. Satellite providers made whole-home systems available to all subscribers. Telco providers provided similar whole-home capability. Although not required by the Voluntary Agreement, cable operators also deployed new whole-home solutions.

Next generation set-top boxes. Cable providers are scheduled to begin field testing set-top boxes with next generation power management in late 2014 that should dramatically reduce set top box power use when the user is not watching or recording a show.

Consumer-Facing Energy Efficiency Information. All Pay TV providers posted energy efficiency information for new set-top boxes.  Links for each service provider are included in the Annual Report, p26.

Field Verification. An independent contractor will verify the energy usage of select set-top boxes in sample homes later this year.  The results of this testing will be published in 2015.

Random Audit. The Independent Administrator is conducting a random audit of one provider to verify the number and specifications of the set top boxes it purchased in 2013.

About NCTA:

NCTA is the principal trade association for the U.S. cable industry, representing cable operators serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s cable television households and more than 200 cable program networks. The cable industry is the nation’s largest broadband provider of high-speed Internet access, serving more than 54 million customers, after investing $210 billion since 1996 to build two-way interactive networks with fiber optic technology. Cable companies also provide state-of-the-art digital telephone service to more than 28 million American consumers.

About CEA:

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the technology trade association representing the $211 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. More than 2,000 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA membership, including legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA also owns and produces the International CES – The Global Stage for Innovation. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA’s industry services.

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