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I then looked through the man page for setterm and played with some settings until I found what works, it now looks like this:
# Screen blanks after 15 minutes idle time.
/bin/setterm -blank 15
/bin/setterm -powersave on
And voila! My VESA monitor now powers off when it blanks. There is also a command -powersave [0-60] that will leave the screen blanked but on until the time specified (in minutes) and then will power down the monitor i.e. if -blank is 15 and -powersave is 5 then after 15 min the screen blanks and then after 20 min total it powers down. You can also try -powersave hsync if -powersave on doesn't work on your particular monitor.
Just thought I'd share that since the powerdown and powersave settings don't clearly distinguish their differences in the man page.