NCTA has been pushing for a non-regulatory solution to cutting the energy use of cable set-top boxes, and it seems to have found one through an agreement with energy efficiency advocates and the consumer electronics industry.

It’s a big win for the industry, with the Dept of Energy agreeing to drop its proposed set-top box energy efficiency rulemaking per a notice dated Fri. NCTA and CEA announced a voluntary agreement in Dec ’12, but energy advocates didn’t feel like it went far enough and walked away from discussions. DOE continued to pursue a regulatory plan for reducing set-top energy use. The 2012 voluntary agreement still stands, but energy-saving efforts are expanded through the new agreement.

The cable trade association joined with CEA, DOE, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project to announce the energy efficient standards for pay-TV set-tops on Monday. The new standards are expected to improve set-top efficiency by 10 to 45 percent (depending on box type) by ’17.

What’s different about the expanded voluntary agreement?

–        It sets more aggressive standards to be met by 90% of STBs in the 2nd phase of commitments in ’17. These savings build upon the major commitment of the 2012 industry agreement to make ENERGY STAR 3.0 the norm in 2013. 
–        The new agreement covers all types of STBs, including whole-home, multifunction gateways devices. These types of devices can be substantially more efficient than using individual set-tops throughout the home.
–        It adds an annual random audit of service providers by an independent auditor and expands verification testing done in the field.
–        It also commits to a more detailed, public annual report of model-specific set-top box power consumption.
–        Energy efficiency advocates will join industry stakeholders on the steering committee than manages the voluntary agreement.

Companies signing on to the agreement include Comcast, DirecTV, DISH, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, Bright House and CenturyLink, as well as manufacturers Cisco, Arris and EchoStar.

All told, the associations expect the new standards to save enough electricity each year to power 700,000 homes and to avoid more than five million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Demand for DVRs and HD set-tops could make the savings even greater.

 “These energy efficiency standards reflect a collaborative approach among the Energy Department, the pay-TV industry and energy efficiency groups—building on more than three decades of common-sense efficiency standards that are saving American families and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The set-top box efficiency standards will save families money by saving energy, while delivering high quality appliances for consumers that keep pace with technological innovation.”
 

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