As Texas lawmakers consider measures during this month of Earth Day to ensure sufficient energy is available to meet the needs of the state’s booming population, the cable industry for almost a decade has voluntarily committed to industry agreements designed to save energy.
One of those agreements – that has just been renewed through 2025 – has saved consumers $7 billion in electricity costs, decreased set-top box annual energy consumption by 46% and averted 39 million metric tons of CO2 emissions from 2012 to 2019, according to an independent audit released last fall.
In addition, cable’s energy efficiency measures played an important role in the past year when consumers needed faster broadband and increased capacity to function during the pandemic.
While the number of consumer tech products in our homes is increasing, their share of our total energy use is steadily shrinking. U.S. homes reported owning 21% more tech devices in 2017 compared to 2010, but those devices used 25% less energy, found a Consumer Technology Association study.
Some of those devices are covered by two energy efficiency agreements signed by most cable providers as well as other telecom companies:
- The Set-Top Box (STB) Voluntary Agreement was established in December 2012 and most recently renewed on April 6. It covers set-top boxes, including those used by cable, which serves more than 90% of the U.S. pay-TV market. It is this agreement that has led to the consumer savings and reduced emissions. This latest renewal further boosts energy efficiency commitments starting in 2023, requiring set-top boxes to use only one third of the energy they used in 2012 by the end of 2025.
- The Small Network Equipment (SNE) Voluntary Agreement was established in June 2015 and extended in July 2018 for four more years. It covers internet modems, routers and other equipment that deliver broadband service. Companies who signed this agreement serve almost 89.2 million residential U.S. internet subscribers, or nearly 89% of the market. The result? More than 99% of small network equipment purchased or sold by the agreement participants met even more rigorous enhanced energy-efficiency levels than the original benchmark, found the latest audit. The report also found that broadband modem energy use has dropped 60% since 2015.
One major advantage to the voluntary approach of these agreements is the New Feature Allowances Process, which enables operators and manufacturers to innovate and evolve their networks and consumer devices without being constrained by restrictive government regulation, according to Debbie Fitzgerald, technology policy director for Cable Labs.
This has given cable companies the ability to upgrade speeds and roll out innovated new features for consumers over the years. As a result, when the pandemic hit and consumers shifted work, school and other activities online, cable providers were able to meet the added demand and keep people connected.
The cable industry also has been able to reduce its impact on the environment thanks to investments in lightweight materials and energy efficient technologies, as well as the convergence of multi-function devices and continuous innovation.
Set-top boxes aren’t the only consumer device that’s become more energy efficient over the years. Televisions are among consumer technology’s major energy efficiency success stories. Since at least 2006, TVs have accounted for the majority of consumer technology’s overall energy use in U.S. homes. However, innovations in designs and displays have decreased TVs’ annual in-home energy consumption dramatically, declining 30% from 2013 to 2017 – the average cost to power a TV in the U.S. is now less than five cents a day.