Savings from U.S. STB Energy Agreement Top $2 Billion

Consumers saved approximately $941 million in energy costs in 2016 – and almost $2.1 billion over the last four years – as a result of the award-winning voluntary set-top box energy conservation agreement among pay-TV providers, manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates.

A new report by independent auditor D+R International says the Voluntary Agreement (VA) also avoided 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – equal to removing 2.5 million cars from the road for an entire year – since the VA’s inception in 2013.

Jennifer Thorne Amann, Buildings Program Director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), praised the Agreement for delivering the predicted energy savings: “When the Department of Energy endorsed the Voluntary Agreement in 2013, it estimated that consumers would save $1 billion per year once the Agreement’s even more rigorous second tier of energy standards became effective in 2017. Savings in 2016 nearly reached that level, and we look forward to even greater savings under the new requirements.”

The VA has delivered increased energy savings each of the past three years, doubling in 2014, nearly doubling again in 2015, and then increasing by another 47 percent in 2016. D+R confirmed these energy savings by reviewing data on every 2016 new set-top box purchase by pay-TV providers serving 92 percent of the U.S. market, backed up by an in depth audit of one randomly selected service provider as well as energy testing inside customer homes conducted by Intertek Testing Services NA Inc., an internationally recognized energy-testing firm.

Service providers have rapidly replaced older-model set-top boxes as consumers flock to new more energy-efficient whole-home DVR architectures that include compelling new features such as improved interfaces, voice remote controls, and Netflix integration. As a result, D+R estimated that nearly three-fourths of all DVRs in the field today were purchased under the Voluntary Agreement’s energy-efficiency standards, and that new DVR models now use an average of 40% less energy than the models purchased prior to the Voluntary Agreement. Most legacy devices will be replaced within the next few years even without any additional measures. D+R also found that service providers continue to upgrade the energy-efficiency of previously-deployed devices with new software that supports reduced power modes in periods of inactivity. This measured approach is better for the environment than premature disposal of working set-top boxes, which would consume additional energy and resources through the processes of manufacturing, transporting, and installing replacement devices.

The initial term of the Voluntary Agreement is set to expire at the end of this year, but the parties recently issued a joint statement indicating that they have started discussions and are optimistic that they will be able to reach consensus on terms to extend the agreement for several more years. The Voluntary Agreement is thus expected to continue without any interruption in the commitments to purchase energy-saving set-top boxes, and to continue to serve as a complete and effective substitute for all federal and state legislative and regulatory solutions pertaining to the energy efficiency of set-top boxes.

Additional milestones highlighted in the 2016 annual report include:

  • 98.6 percent of New Set-Top Boxes Meet ENERGY STAR Efficiency Standards. Under the Voluntary Agreement, the service provider signatories agreed that 90 percent of the set-top boxes they purchased after December 31, 2013, would meet the energy efficiency standards of ENERGY STAR Version 3.0. In 2016, virtually every set-top box they purchased (98.6 percent) met these standards.
  • Higher Standards Kick in. Even more energy efficient standards became effective January 1, 2017. The signatories have committed that 90% of their 2017 purchases will meet these standards, which will deliver even more annual savings than the $1 billion originally predicted when the Voluntary Agreement was endorsed by the Department of Energy.
  • Whole-Home Systems and Cloud DVRs. Prior to the Voluntary Agreement, consumers that wanted to use recording functionality throughout their home typically needed a DVR with a energy-consuming spinning hard drive for each television. Millions of consumers today now use “whole home” offerings that require only one DVR, and new “cloud DVR” offerings are emerging that eliminate the need for a DVR hard drive in the home altogether.
  • Automatic Power Down. The Voluntary Agreement requires that at least 90 percent of new satellite set-top boxes include Automatic Power Down (APD) – a functionality that puts set-top boxes into an energy-saving sleep mode or turns them off after a period of inactivity. In 2016, every new satellite set-top box (100 percent) met this requirement, and cable signatories are also implementing APD.

The Voluntary Agreement was signed in 2012 with the goal of increasing the energy efficiency of set-top boxes, while continuing to innovate and introduce new features. In 2013, leading energy efficiency advocates joined with the pay television industry in an expanded version of the VA. Signatories now include all of the major multichannel video service providers representing more than 92 percent of the U.S. multichannel video market (AT&T/DIRECTV, Comcast, Charter/Time Warner Cable/Bright House Networks, DISH, Verizon, Cox, Cablevision, and CenturyLink), major manufacturers (ARRIS/Pace, Technicolor, EchoStar Technologies) and energy-efficiency advocates (Natural Resources Defense Council, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). CableLabs® has also played a leading role in researching and developing energy efficiency strategies and in supporting the ongoing implementation of the Voluntary Agreement.

Last year, the Voluntary Agreement was named “Project of the Year” by Environmental Leader, a leading daily trade publication covering energy, environmental and sustainability news.