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Video Games Consume as Much Energy as San Diego


Video games in the U.S. consume 16 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year, according to a new study conducted by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and Ecos Consulting. This is roughly equal to the annual electricity use of all the homes in the city of San Diego, and translates to over $1 billion worth of energy a year.

The study found that the most popular models – Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft XBox360 and Nintendo’s Wii – use nearly the same amount of power in idle as when they are actually being played.  More user-friendly energy saving features, as well as more efficient devices could reduce emissions by more than 7 million tons annually, the report found.

The report provides advice for video game players for cutting their energy costs, and as well as recommendations for how manufacturers can improve the efficiency of future models.

EL has reported in the past on the poor scores video games received in Greenpeace’s Electronics Ratings, as well as the hazardous chemicals found in the units.

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3 thoughts on “Video Games Consume as Much Energy as San Diego

  1. Well this is not entirely shocking as the new generation of video games is not much more than purpose-built computers/servers. Idle performance standards have long been ignored within the industry and only recently through the direct involvement of the US EPA in pursuit of an ENERGY STAR for servers specification have we seen any interest in idle power.

    However – this specific instance of excess power consumption in idle mode is more one of parental or gamer control. As a parent and as many may know an on-line gamer myself (bring on that Halo 3 match) in our home all computers and all video games are on power strips for individual control. Not only do we power down the game unit when not in use but the TV is also completely off and not in the phantom load mode of instant-on. Why leave a TV in instant-on mode for days at a time when the attached video game takes longer to boot-up than the TV?

    So if you are not using a power strip for your video games then go out and get one NOW! Plug the game and the TV into the same strip and you are further ahead.

    Idle power of video games is very easy to control. Far easier than idle power in a datacenter.

  2. According to the study, there are no stats for actual energy consumption for either idle or play. As noted in the footnotes of the white paper, the estimated (key word) kWh is based on 50% of players leaving consoles on 24/7 vs 50% who turn on and off. There is a 90% difference in energy consumption per year. Since the consumption is estimated, I would suggest it is not fair to assume the 16M kWh as fact, when at best, it is a stretched estimate. I and at least 4 other gamers I know all turn off our units when not in play.

  3. An important topic, though, even if the assumptions are debatable. An improvement to the study would just leave the unknown variable as such and plot as the abscissa (0% to 100%) versus gross power GWh annual.

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