Theresa Hennesy and John Schanz, who lead Comcast Cable’s energy initiatives, believe there's no time to waste in building a more energy-efficient future. With Internet traffic doubling every 18 to 24 months, and our entertainment, communications, and other consumer experiences demanding an ever-increasing supply of new technologies, energy will always be at a premium.
"There may not be an immediate crisis, but if you project this demand out over decades, we may reach a tipping point in terms of meeting energy demands — and paying for them," Theresa says. "We have to make proactive decisions now. We've always been innovative in the Internet space; now we just need to apply that same focus and creativity to the energy space."
Here’s a glimpse at several promising innovations — from short-term tactical initiatives to long-term strategies — that are helping transform our energy infrastructure. John and Theresa add their thoughts on what these innovations mean for the company going forward.
Our 80,000-square-foot regional headquarters in Berlin, Connecticut, receives roughly 80% of its power from fuel cells, with the power grid acting as a backup. Fuel cell technology generates clean energy from hydrogen while emitting nothing but water — helping reduce our carbon footprint.
Theresa: This is our first experience with fuel cells. Right now we’re seeing how the technology works and whether these cells might be appropriate for other Comcast locations. But they show a lot of potential in helping us meet our critical power needs.
Smart data centers
Smart cooling and energy technologies are helping us improve the efficiency and performance of our data centers. For example, our newest data centers use sophisticated monitoring tools to prevent peak energy loads when demand increases. And our Chicago facility takes advantage of the city's often-chilly temperatures by using outside air to cool our IT equipment.
John: We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what will happen as we offer more cloud services, increase traffic on our network, and improve services for our customers. Building energy-efficient, sustainable data centers is core to our strategy because demand for data is only going to grow.
Efficient set-top boxes
Select Comcast non-DVR set-top cable boxes used 53% less energy on average in 2014 than comparable boxes in 2009. We’ve also reduced the annual power consumption of typical HD DVR set-top boxes by 30% in the same time period.
Theresa: With tens of millions of customers in the United States, every improvement in the design of our equipment can have a big impact on our customers' energy use. We've challenged ourselves and our industry to be more energy conscious when designing and building new consumer devices.
CCAP broadband technology
We're investing hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and deploy Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) broadband technology within our network. CCAP delivers the same bandwidth capacity as current technologies while using 40% less energy.
John: CCAP is the kind of technology that gets us really psyched about the future. Faster speeds and greater capabilities while using less energy — what's not to like?
We're playing a leading role in Energy 2020, an industry-wide collaboration intended to help cable companies align on ways to curtail energy use and costs in the coming decade. Organized by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) —and chaired by John — the initiative's goals include reducing power consumption for cable equipment and facilities by 20%, slashing energy costs by 25%, and reducing dependency on the power grid by 10%.
John: One of the critical ingredients in our services is energy, and we're not the only ones. All cable operators are in the same position. We can get so much more done working together than individually. It's better for our industry, consumers, and ultimately the environment.
Watch a video of John Schanz and Theresa Hennesy discussing Energy 2020.