Greening the Cable Plant

New SCTE standards could cut one-quarter of cable’s $1 billion annual energy bill

As cable operators and programmers
face rising bills for energy costs,
the Society of Cable Telecommunications
Engineers (SCTE) is moving forward
with drafts of two new standards that could
have signifi cant impact on both energy costs
and the cable industry’s green efforts.

The SCTE, which estimates that the cable industry
spent about $1 billion a year on energy
in 2010 for its facilities and operations, is hoping
the new standards could cut those costs by
20-25% a year over the next three to five years.

Over time that would have a significant
impact on cable’s bottom line, according to
several SCTE projections of possible energy
costs. Under one scenario, cable’s energy bills
could top $1.6 billion a year in 2017, even if
the cable industry doesn’t expand its network.

That seems unlikely. Cisco recently projected
that new services, such as TV Everywhere delivery,
will more than double traffic over managed
IP networks—such as those run by cable operators
and IPTV providers—from 2,421 petabytes
per month in 2010 to 6,878 petabytes in 2015.
That represents a 23% annual growth rate.

If cable networks were to double their capacity
to handle that projected traffic, one
SCTE estimate puts energy costs jumping to
around $3.4 billion by 2017, unless conservation
measures are put in place.

In contrast, implementing some SCTEproposed
standards to achieve a 25% energy
savings could cut those costs to about $2.5
billion in 2017.

“In this case, green is dollars,” says Mark
Dzuban, SCTE president and CEO, who calls
the society’s Smart Energy Management Initiative,
and the work of their Sustainability
Management Subcommittee on the new energy
and power standards, one of the group’s
most important efforts.

“Green initiatives can be warm and fuzzy,
but you can only sell that to a point,” Dzuban
says. “To make material changes, you have to
make a business case as well.”

The projected savings aren’t just theoretical,
Dzuban stresses. Since starting its Smart Energy
Management Initiative in 2009, SCTE has also
worked to implement a host of programs at its
own headquarters. The fixes enabled the organization
to cut its electricity costs from the grid by
46% during the first quarter of 2011.

The savings came from the installation of a
rooftop solar system from Alpha Energy, the
use of more efficient LED lighting and the
deployment of new servers with advanced
processors and more efficient power supplies.
The last change was part of a virtualization
project that has cut the number of servers
needed in half. The project is using a stateof-
the-art hydrogen fuel cell system that is capable
of providing 64 hours of backup power
to its critical IT equipment.

The deal with Alpha Energy also reduced
capital costs because SCTE used a Power Purchase
Agreement to finance the installation.
Under that agreement, SCTE pays a fixed
amount for the solar energy used but does not
have to buy the equipment.

E-mail comments to