The US Department of Energy (DOE) has confirmed that it is delaying a proposed rule regarding energy conservation for set-top boxes to allow industry representatives and energy efficiency advocates time to negotiate a non-regulatory agreement.
The DOE is initiating a rulemaking and data collection process to develop a potential test procedure and energy conservation standard for set-top boxes and network equipment, and as such, issued a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register, which enabled the department to gather data, identifying several issues associated with currently available industry test procedures, efficiency standards and energy use data for STBs.
In a statement, the DOE said it was amending its rulemaking schedule for set-top boxes to suspend the issuance of a proposed rule for a regulatory test procedure or energy conservation standard until after October 1, 2012. It said the suspension would allow industry representatives and energy efficiency advocates time to negotiate a non-regulatory agreement to improve the energy efficiency of set-top boxes.
If successful, the DOE said a non-regulatory agreement could become effective quickly. DOE will provide technical support to ensure that any non-regulatory agreement sufficiently addresses the public interest in improving set-top box energy efficiency. DOE will also continue testing and evaluating the energy efficiency of set-top boxes in support of developing a DOE test procedure. DOE will undertake analysis in preparation for a regulatory standard in the event a non-regulatory agreement cannot be reached or to cover any class of set-top boxes not covered by a non-regulatory agreement.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) supported the decision. “This is great news from the Department of Energy and recognises that an industry agreement could be more effective and implemented more quickly than a rulemaking,” commented NCTA vice president and general counsel Neal Goldberg. “We’ll continue our efforts to work closely with the energy advocates and industry to forge a solution that accomplishes our shared vision of improving the energy efficiency of set-top boxes while continuing to provide best-in-class service to consumers.”
A June 2011 report from Washington-based environmental advocacy group the Natural Resources Defense Council suggested that the 160 million set-top boxes installed in US homes cost $3 billion to operate, largely because the boxes never go to sleep. Inactive boxes that aren’t recording or playing back shows account for about $2 billion of that cost, the study found.
The NCTA and cable industry R&D consortium CableLabs November 2011 announced an initiative dedicated to improving the energy efficiency of consumer set-top boxes and other devices and developing advanced cable-enabled services designed to promote innovative consumer energy conservation measures.