What stood out to me was the huge amount of power we pumped into set-top boxes in 2010:
…A report from advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council… found that cable and satellite set-top boxes consumed approximately 27 billion kilowatts in 2010 — equivalent to the output of nine coal-fired power plants. The NRDC report concluded that the cost to power DVRs and set-tops will increase $3.5 billion per year by 2020 without more energy-efficient set-top and DVR designs.
However, the cable industry is working on this problem:
Meanwhile, cable operators are deploying set-top boxes with “light sleep” capabilities that reduce energy consumption when they are not in active use, a feature NCTA projects will save 350 million kilowatt hours in the first year alone. In addition, lower-power digital transport adapters (DTAs) are saving 2 billion kWh annually, according to the NCTA.
I’ve been seeing a lot of these lower powered boxes cropping up, but there are two big problems:
First, cable companies only seem to be distributing these boxes for new installations and replacement of old hardware. They’re not encouraging people to upgrade to the newer, significantly smaller boxes that are available.
Second: who “turns off” their cable boxes? I can’t think of a single person who routinely hits the power button on their TV and their cable box. This is key to the light and deep sleep modes that the industry is working on, unless they’ve devised some other method of determining when people are and are not watching TV (perhaps using HDMI-CEC? Though not everything speaks CEC at this stage in the game, and convincing people to upgrade just because of that will be a hard sell).