Back in 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that some set-top boxes (STBs) consume about half of the electricity a typical new refrigerator uses in a year. Since consumers may have multiple boxes in their homes, the agency called them out as a prime area for efficiency improvements: “These devices are essentially never off, even when no one in the household is watching television or recording a program. Instead, they remain in a standby mode drawing nearly full power, often around 15-20 watts. Energy saving modes such as deep sleep are present on Energy Star models but may or may not be enabled.”
The EIA further noted that increasing use of more efficient thin-client devices was helping to offset some of the consumption for multiple STBs in a home, and it also noted that video streaming devices like Apple TV and Roku consume “only a fraction of the energy used by typical STBs.”
Energy efficiency efforts around set-tops has continued to move forward across North America in the last few years, which includes an announcement from Canada this week. Pay TV service providers (specifically, cable, direct-to-home satellite, and IPTV providers) along with set-top box manufacturers have reportedly finalized a voluntary agreement, committing themselves to improving the energy efficiency of set-tops across Canada. According to a press release, the operators reached the agreement in consultation with federal and provincial governments, utilities, and supporting organizations.
Current voluntary agreement signatories include Bell, Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw, and Vidéotron, which are estimated to serve more than 88 percent of the Canadian pay TV market. Manufacturers Arris and EchoStar Technologies are also signed on.
“It is expected that total annual energy consumption in Canada will be reduced and annual carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by over 100,000 tonnes,” a statement announcing the project says. “This is equivalent to the emissions of over 44,000 sub-compact new vehicles driving 15,000 km/year.”
At least 90 percent of all new set-top boxes purchased beginning in 2017 should meet the energy efficiency standards set out in the voluntary agreement, according to the statement. Along with complementary measures such as the Energy Star program, the project is expected to reduce the total annual energy consumption of Canadian set-top boxes from 3.4 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2016 to 2.7 TWh in 2021. The energy savings expected is said to be equivalent to the consumption of 60,000 homes.
The new commitments were made through an industry-led collaboration among the signatory Canadian pay TV service providers and their set-top box manufacturers, with support from Natural Resources Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Energy, the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines, Quebec’s Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles, and Manitoba’s Department of Growth, Enterprise, and Trade. The agreement was also reportedly formulated with the support of provincial utilities BC Hydro, Independent Electricity System Operator, Manitoba Hydro, SaskPower, and Hydro Québec. Supportive organizations included the Consumer Technology Association, CableLabs, and CSA Group.