NCTA — The Internet & Television Association

Energy Management Standards in the Works for Cable Operators

Energy Management Standards in the Works for Cable Operators

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We’ve all benefited from the great speed of today’s technological advancements. Television, phones, tablets and the Internet of Things have given us security, convenience and connectivity to our everyday necessities–from getting in touch with someone instantly to receiving and watching the latest news to enjoying smart homes. But a lot rides on how much energy these essentials and networks burn up. To reduce the environmental impact and the costs that come with power consumption, steps are being taken throughout the industry to conserve energy and to address energy holistically by spreading awareness on this topic.

For one, a 2013 voluntary set-top box energy conservation agreementbetween the pay-TV industry, consumer electronics manufacturers and energy efficient advocates, has already resulted in a huge improvement in the energy efficiency of set-top boxes (a similar agreement for home Internet equipment was also recently announced). Along with a large reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, the agreement saved American consumers around $336 million in 2014 alone, and energy usage by new DVRs went down by 33 percent. On top of the explosion of apps–which has led to pay-TV programming on tablets, smartphones and other devices–cable, satellite and telco providers have also expanded their network and cloud offerings and lessened the need for multiple set-top boxes in the home.

And to help further spur innovation in this area, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) put together the Energy 2020 program. Started last year, the initiative focuses on meeting benchmarks and tangible goals to assess current energy consumption, predict power requirements, inform purchasing decisions around hardware that drives lower energy costs and consumption, and to establish common standards across technology vendors and operators in regards to reducing energy usage as an industry. Notably, the program aims to support participation throughout the industry in this area through encouraging the sharing of ideas on alternative technology approaches.

At SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo earlier this month in New Orleans, operators and vendors exhibited various energy efficient products and methods that exemplify energy efficiency in its best form. One such demo included an initiative, the Adaptive Power Systems Interface Specifications developed by ARRIS, WES and Concurrent Thinking Ltd., which assists cable operators in establishing a standard that instructs software on how to measure energy consumption.

Discussions also took place on how automation and moving functionalities to the cloud help save energy and on the importance of increasing cable modem energy efficiency. Comcast shared its experience with using alternative energy through its installation of a natural gas fuel facility. Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable is looking at solar energy technology for energy savings, and Cox Communications exhibited its corporate-wide cable facility deployments of solar power.

The measurable goals of Energy 2020 include:

  • reduction of power consumption by 20 percent on a unit basis
  • energy cost reduction by 25 percent on a unit basis
  • reduction of grid dependency by 10 percent
  • optimization of the technical facilities and datacenters footprint by 20 percent

Senior Vice President of Comcast Cable, Theresa Hennesy, sums up the idea behind Energy 2020 and why it’s so important that this become an industry-wide project:

“We have a great heritage around innovation and we have a great heritage of delivering to our customers. But in order for that to continue we need to be able to make sure we have the right energy and power requirements to move us forward. It’s not good enough anymore for us to have the iterative, momentary, transactional type improvements.”

Energy 2020, along with the collaborative industry approach of the voluntary set-top box and home Internet equipment energy conservation agreements, aims to generate information sharing and best practices–those around solar, fuel cell, and data center practices–to establish common standards on how to measure energy and to drive technology partners to a common platform. 2020 is less than five years away, but we look forward to seeing some strides across our industry in achieving the next great technological advancements through energy efficient means.