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Consumer Technology Association and National Cable & Telecommunications Association: Voluntary Agreement for Ongoing Improvement to the Energy Efficiency of Set-Top Boxes

What appears to be a common household device that touches homes everywhere can, if managed properly, yield amazing results. Excellent example of collaborative agreement among a variety of manufacturers, service providers, government, and consumer stakeholders resulting in substantial reductions in environmental and energy footprints.

In 2012, the pay-TV industry initiated the Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement to increase the energy efficiency of set-top boxes by up to 45%. The Consumer Technology Association worked in concert with the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and other partners to establish ambitious commitments. The agreement’s 15 signatories included all of America’s major service providers, industry organizations, and STB manufacturers, including Cisco, EchoStar Technologies and ARRIS.

The Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement set rigorous standards such as requiring that at least 90% of all new boxes purchased and deployed after 2013 meet EPA Energy Star 3.0 efficiency levels, and for “light sleep” functionality to be downloaded to more than 10 million devices already in use. In addition, independent audits and field verification tests are performed annually to provide transparency, public accountability, and objective updates on the agreement’s progress.

A steering committee was established to coordinate and govern the voluntary agreement. At least once a year the committee meets to evaluate the agreement’s effectiveness, create an annual report, and evaluate current and future developments that may affect energy efficiency. An expanded voluntary agreement was adopted in 2013, adding NGO efficiency advocates including the Natural Resources Defense Council. It encompassed additional energy efficiency commitments and expanded provisions for transparency and accountability.

Through its first two years, the voluntary agreement reduced national annual set-top box energy consumption by 1.4 terawatt-hours (4.4%), saved consumers more than $500 million in energy bills, and avoided nearly three million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Consumer Technology Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Overall, 95% of service providers’ set-top box purchases in 2014 met Energy Star Version 3.0 standards, and 62% already met the even more stringent set of Tier 2 energy efficiency levels, which will be the new baseline for the 90% procurement commitment in 2017. The associations that established the voluntary agreement say that, compared to national energy-use projections without the agreement, American consumers saved more than $1 billion in energy bills and avoided six million metric tons of carbon dioxide over two years.