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A Ton of Savings—Thanks to Energy-Efficiency Voluntary Agreements

Energy-Efficiency Voluntary Agreements

Debbie Fitzgerald
Technology Policy Director

Oct 18, 2022

What weighs more, a ton of carbon dioxide gas or a ton of bricks? Well, that’s a trick question because they both weigh one ton! It’s difficult to imagine that a gas can be measured in terms of weight, but that’s how carbon dioxide, or CO2, is measured. CO2 is technically measured in terms of metric tons. One metric ton of CO2 would fill a cube roughly 27 feet tall, wide and deep!

In the U.S. Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement (VA), we use the EPA greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator to quantify how many metric tons of CO2 are avoided, or saved, when we reduce the energy consumed by set-top boxes (STBs). The VA’s independent annual report was recently released, and the savings trends continue! D+R International reported that the voluntary agreement avoided 13 MILLION metric tons (MMT) of CO2 in 2021 alone and nearly 64 million metric tons in the nine years of the agreement!

CO2 Avoided Due to the Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement

The chart below shows the impressive trend of reduced energy consumption over the nine years. This chart represents the estimated energy use of deployed STBs in the United States among cable, telco and satellite providers.

Annual Energy Used by Set-Top Boxes

I will note that the number of deployed STBs has also declined, from an estimated 227 million in 2012 to 155 million in 2021. This is partly because of subscriber losses but is also attributed to whole-home DVR solutions and solutions to view pay TV content directly on TVs, phones, tablets, etc. (According to the report, an estimated 56 million devices accessed subscriber content through apps.) However, another interesting chart from the report shows that the average weighted typical energy consumption (TEC) of only the newly purchased STBs, as reported every year by the signatories, has also been reduced over the years by 57%. This is an important metric because it shows improvement without factoring in the smaller number of deployed STBs.

Average Weighted TEC of Purchased STBs by Year

Small Network Equipment Energy Efficiency Gains

The 2021 Small Network Equipment Report was just released and also demonstrates continued energy efficiency trends even as the demand for faster and more capable broadband grows.

Weighted Average Energy Usage by Equipment Type, Relative to Average Broadband Download Speed

Canadian Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement (CEEVA)

Canada also has voluntary agreements for set-top boxes and small network equipment. CEEVA STB has been in place for five years and has demonstrated a very similar trend as the United States, as shown in the chart below. (Note: PVR stands for “personal video recorder,” which is called a “digital video recorder,” or DVR, in the United States.)

Weighted Average TEC, by Set-Top Box Category 2017-2021

This is only the first year that SNE procurement commitments were in effect in Canada and just the second year to report purchases. Yet the results already show an exciting increase in energy efficiency—an improvement of 34% from 2020 to 2021!

Renewed Level of Commitment

Returning to the discussion of CO2, the cumulative impact of these programs is making a significant difference, and the programs are only gaining momentum. The U.S. SNE voluntary agreement has been renewed and extended through 2025 and has added several new signatories, including Google, Amazon eero, TP-Link and Sagemcom. In addition, California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company has joined the SNE VA as an energy efficiency advocate. The U.S. STB voluntary agreement renewed its commitments last year to run through 2025, and Canada renewed both CEEVA STB and SNE to run through 2026. CableLabs is proud to help lead the charge to reduce the carbon contribution of STBs and SNE in North America while enabling the industry to continue innovating on the platforms.

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