Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement Tightens Energy Allowances and Extends Term

Debbie Fitzgerald
Technology Policy Director

Apr 8, 2021

CableLabs, CTA and NCTA are pleased to announce that the award-winning Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement (STB VA) has been extended by four years, along with introducing a new tier of allowances that will reduce energy consumption of set-top boxes by at least another 20 percent.

The STB VA has been a true success story since it was established in 2012. In the first seven reporting years, the STB VA has saved U.S. residential video consumers a total of 55.1 TWh and over $7 billion in electricity bills. More important, it has averted nearly 39 million metric tons of CO2 emissions through 2019.

Since the inception of the STB VA, the average energy consumption of set-top boxes has steadily declined, even as set-top box features have increased, such as 4K video support, Wi-Fi interfaces and the ability to record multiple programs at the same time. This progress demonstrates the successful collaboration between everyone in the ecosystem, including silicon manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, software developers, service providers, and energy-efficiency advocates. It is projected that, at the end of this extended term, the total energy used by set-top boxes in the United States will be only one-third of the energy used by set-top boxes in 2012 when the agreement was initially signed!

The charts below depict the evolution of a typical cable set-top box without a digital video recorder (Non-DVR) and one with a digital video recorder (DVR) across the years and across the tiers. Note that non-DVR energy consumption has decreased by nearly 70 percent between Tier 1 and Tier 4. This is especially significant as operators migrate more toward non-DVR smaller-client set-top boxes and use their ability to maintain customers’ recordings in the cloud. Not only does this capability dramatically reduce the energy footprint of STBs in the home, but it also enables customers to watch their recordings on their phones, tablets, PCs and other devices inside and outside the home.

Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement Tightens Energy Allowances and Extends Term
Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement Tightens Energy Allowances and Extends Term
Typical Energy Consumption (TEC) is a formula used by the STB VA (and ENERGY STAR) to evaluate the energy efficiency of an STB. It is a function of the energy consumption of a STB in various modes, such as watching TV and standby, and expressed in units of kWh/yr.

History of the STB VA Tiers

In 2012, the STB VA was developed as a result of discussions among pay-TV service providers, technology suppliers, energy-efficiency advocates and the U.S. Department of Energy. The industry VA was forged, and it has certainly demonstrated that it is an effective alternative to regulation since its inception.

One of the primary commitments of the STB VA is that 90 percent of all STB purchases in a calendar year will measure in lower than the energy-consumption levels specified by the applicable tier. When the STB VA was established by the industry in 2012, the first tier adopted the same levels as the ENERGY STAR 3.0 program that was currently in place for STBs. That defined the “Tier 1” set of allowances for the STB VA.

In 2013, two energy-efficiency advocates—the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)—became signatories as part of an extension to the VA that included a more aggressive new “Tier 2” set of allowances, which became applicable in 2017.

The VA was extended a second time in 2018 with a new Tier 3 definition of allowances and the term running through 2021. At the time Tier 3 was defined, the signatories also committed to exploring a Tier 4 for the allowances.

That brings us to today. After several years of research and industry collaboration led by CableLabs, the signatories just ratified a new amendment to the VA, extending the term through 2025 (with a final report in 2026) and defining an even more aggressive Tier 4 set of allowances.

To Sum It Up

In the Tier 1 era, near the beginning of the VA in 2013, a typical cable customer had two DVRs and one non-DVR device because set-top boxes were not yet networked in the home. Heading into the Tier 4 era, that same cable customer will have even more features and capabilities (e.g., cloud recording, 4K video, integrated streaming services such as Netflix) but may have just three small non-DVR devices, reducing set-top box energy consumption in the home by over 80 percent!

CableLabs is proud to be part of this highly successful VA that affords new innovative features, greater functionality and the capability to deliver high-quality services to consumers in an energy-efficient manner.

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Getting Better Every Year!

Debbie Fitzgerald
Technology Policy Director

Aug 18, 2016

Last week, the Pay-TV Industry released two very important Annual Reports related to Energy Efficiency initiatives in the United States.  And the results were very good!


The Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement released its third Annual Report.  In 2015, the report estimated that the Voluntary Agreement reduced national set-top box annual energy consumption by 5.1 TWh when compared to the 2012 baseline case, saving consumers approximately $646 million dollars and preventing 3.6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions during 2015.  But the more impressive statistic is the trend, shown in the graph above.  The savings are getting better every year!  Over the three years that the STB VA has been in place, consumers have saved nearly 1.2 billion (with a ‘B’) dollars, and avoided nearly 6.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions!  As stated in the annual report, the energy saved over the first three years is the equivalent of the energy used by all the homes in both Washington, DC and San Francisco combined for one year!


The Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement released its first Annual Report, and the results are promising.  Although in the first year the signatories were not obligated to meet their 90% procurement or sales commitments, seven of the 11 signatories required to report already met them.  And the data provided by the signatories reinforces the estimates that the SNE VA will save between 10 and 20% in energy consumption once the commitments are in place.

Along with the release of these reports, the signatories also stood up a consolidated web site at, where you can learn more about the voluntary agreements and find the annual reports.

The manufacturers and service providers are continuing to make great strides in energy savings even as they innovate and deploy exciting new features and services.  And these energy savings also translate to higher reliability and reduced truck rolls for the service providers.  The voluntary agreements are proving to be a win for service providers, consumers, and the environment.


Read more about the energy efficiency voluntary agreements.



Industry Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement Initiative Wins Environmental Leader Top Project of the Year Award

Debbie Fitzgerald
Technology Policy Director

Jun 28, 2016

Last week, at the 2016 Environmental Leader Conference, the Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement (STB VA) received special recognition to reduce energy consumption related to set-top boxes in consumers’ homes.  The Environmental Leader Top Project of the Year Award is a program recognizing excellence in projects that provide companies and consumers with environmental, sustainability and energy management benefits.  The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished judges with experience in environmental management, headed by an unbiased judging coordinator from an outside Environmental Leader.

This is a team win for all the participants in the Voluntary Agreement:  service providers  - AT&T, Cablevision, CenturyLink, Charter (including Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks), Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, DISH, Verizon; manufacturers – Arris, Echostar Technologies, and Technicolor; energy conservation advocates – ACEEE, ASAP, and NRDC; and supporting organizations – CableLabs, CTA, and NCTA.

Established in 2012 and expanded in 2013, the STB Voluntary Agreement (VA) includes many commitments.  First and foremost, each service provider commits to ensuring that at least 90% of their STBs purchased each year will consume less energy than the allowances set forth in the VA.  The VA enlists an Independent Administrator to evaluate annual reports from each signatory to ensure compliance, and aggregates the information into a public annual report.  Every year, an independent auditor tests STBs in nearly 100 homes across the United States to verify the service providers’ reported values.  And, for consumers, each service provider must publicly report the energy usage of each STB model purchased since the beginning of 2014.  In addition, service providers are deploying whole-home DVR solutions and upgrading software on fielded models to enable light sleep to further reduce the energy usage.

CableLabs is proud to be a part of this historic initiative and to support all the signatories in the agreement.  CableLabs runs technical working groups to update the VA with new features and energy allowances, and works with specification teams and manufacturers to identify new ways to reduce energy consumption. The CableLabs Energy Lab supports testing and reporting of STB energy consumption, and CableLabs hosts the required public information for all of the cable signatories.  CableLabs also works on advanced home networking solutions to reduce the complexity and number of STBs required in a home.

The STB VA has already saved consumers over a billion dollars in energy costs and avoided over 6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.  We are honored to receive this prestigious award and will continue to strive to make a difference in this industry.


Receiving the awards at the Environmental Leader 2016 conference are, from left to right: Doug Johnson (CTA), Gary Langille (DISH/Echostar Technologies), Paul Nastu (Environmental Leader), Debbie Fitzgerald (CableLabs), and Steve Mace (NCTA)




A New Voluntary Agreement for Energy Efficiency: Home Internet Equipment

Debbie Fitzgerald
Technology Policy Director

Jun 25, 2015

For a couple of years now, cable operators, along with other pay-tv service providers and manufacturers, have been working diligently to improve the energy efficiency of set-top boxes in the home through the set-top box (STB) Voluntary Agreement. And they have already demonstrated energy savings, even in the first year.

But set-top boxes are not the only devices that service providers install in our homes. Other typical devices include high-speed data modems, gateways that provide phone service, and even wireless home routers. Now the service providers are working on reducing the energy footprint of those devices as well.

Today, 10 service providers and 8 manufacturers just announced the Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement (SNE VA), modeled after the successful STB VA. This Voluntary Agreement is expected to improve the energy efficiency of SNE by 10 to 20 percent and cover more than 90 percent of U.S. broadband households. The service providers are: AT&T, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, DIRECTV, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon; and the manufacturers are: Actiontec, ARRIS, Cisco, D-Link, EchoStar Technologies, Pace, NETGEAR, and Ubee Interactive.

Similar to the STB VA, the SNE VA commits service providers to purchase at least 90% of their SNE products that meet energy consumption targets outlined in the SNE VA. But in addition, manufacturers that sell products into retail (such as home WiFi routers) also commit that at least 90% of their products sold into retail will meet the targets. Service providers are also required to publicly report SNE energy use and submit to an annual verification audit. CableLabs will likely host the SNE public energy use information for the cable operator signatories, similar to this site that contains STB energy use.

CableLabs is proud to have played a significant role in the development of the SNE VA. CableLabs led the technical working group that developed the energy consumption targets mentioned above. The energy consumption targets are defined for devices under test that are connected, able to communicate, but operating in a state with “no user-generated traffic”. It was determined that this was the best state to characterize the energy targets, because as device manufacturers strive to reduce consumption in this “idle” state, the active consumption is also reduced. In addition, most network devices always need to be on and ready to transmit within milliseconds, but are often in this idle state throughout the day and especially at night. And, “idle state” can be consistently tested across devices.

In addition to defining the technical components of the SNE VA, CableLabs was actively involved in the development of the ANSI/CEA 2049 test procedure that is cited in the VA as the mechanism to determine the energy consumption.

As consumers are adding more and more “Internetworked things” and small networking equipment to their homes every day, it is important to get out in front of the energy consumption concerns in all development phases of these products. As already demonstrated with the STB VA, a Voluntary Agreement approach is a great way to make low energy consumption a priority while maintaining the ability to rapidly innovate in this fast-paced environment.

Debbie Fitzgerald is the Director of Client Application Technologies at CableLabs.