How to Go Green without Going Broke

BTR_Feature_Art_green_3_26_13Going green sounds great, but getting there costs money. Even though becoming more energy efficient saves in the long run, projects sometimes get waylaid in favor of revenue generating services or simply those with a quicker ROI.

However, there is an opportunity for cable operators to fund capital projects through state utility programs for energy efficiency, Ken Williams, EVP with the Wisconsin Electricity Coordinating Council, said during a recent SCTE Smart Energy Management Initiative (SEMI) webinar.

“By using incentives, (operators) may be able to move the ROI on projects enough to get them the green light,” Williams said.

Utility customers, including cable operators, pay into the funds via a surcharge of less than 1% to 2%. “Other businesses are benefiting from the amount cable contributes,” Williams said. “(Operators) should be getting (their) share.”

The trick is knowing how the programs work, with the challenge being that there is no national standard. “Most programs are run by the individual utilities, and the differences between the programs can be significant,” Williams added. “Keeping track of the rules and regulations can be difficult.”

Generally, there are a few main categories of programs. One incentive, for example, is designed to encourage the replacement of still-working equipment with higher efficiency models. On the consumer level, an HVAC system, for example, might have eight years left on its predicted life span. An agency could offer an incentive for purchasing an upgraded unit based on the incremental energy that would have been used during those eight years. The same concept carries over to the commercial world.

Another genre, prescriptive programs, is similar but has fewer variables since these incentives are based on identified calculations and do not require project approval before taking place. There could be a set price per unit, for example, for installing a high efficiency light fixture. If a customer installs three, the incentive amount is simply tripled.

“I think there is a real opportunity for prescriptive incentives for cable (operators) to upgrade power supplies using the concept of early replacement,” Williams said. “(But) manufacturers and energy efficiency program implementers would have to develop savings per unit that are acceptable.”

Utilities have tried to address the plug load in the home, including set-top boxes. A “logical approach” would be to have energy incentives for customers who return the box to the operator and have it replaced. “The customer gets upgraded technology, and the (operator) gets equipment in the home that can bring in more revenue per screen,” Williams said.

One additional opportunity is to request an opt-out for paying into the pool of money that is used for the incentives. For this to happen, companies must demonstrate that they are implementing projects on their own. Home automation tools could be one way to do this, Williams said.

Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at

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