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Greening the Cable Plant

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.

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