Electricity consumption and energy savings potential of video game consoles in the United States


Total energy consumption of video game consoles has grown rapidly in the past few decades due to rapid increases in market penetration, power consumption of the devices, and increasing usage driven by new capabilities. Unfortunately, studies investigating the energy impacts of these devices have been limited and potential responses, such as ENERGY STAR requirements, have been difficult to define and implement. We estimate that the total electricity consumption of video game consoles in the US was around 11 TWh in 2007 and 16 TWh in 2010 (approximately 1 % of US residential electricity consumption), an increase of almost 50 % in 3 years. However, any estimate of total game console energy consumption is highly uncertain, and we have determined that the key uncertainty is the unknown consumer behavior with regards to powering down the system after use. Even under this uncertainty, we demonstrate that the most effective energy-saving modification is incorporation of a default auto power down feature, which could reduce electricity consumption of game consoles by 75 % (10 TWh reduction of electricity in 2010), saving consumers over $1 billion annually in electricity bills. We conclude that using an auto power down feature for game consoles is at least as effective for reducing energy consumption as implementing a strict set of energy efficiency improvements for the devices, is much easier to implement given the nature of the video game console industry, and could be applied retroactively to currently deployed consoles through firmware updates.

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  1. 1.

    Using 2008 AEO detailed tables, Table 10—Energy consumption by sector and source.

  2. 2.

    Using EIA GHG flow from 2006. EIA reports that the residential sector is responsible for 1,234 MMT of carbon dioxide equivalent and that total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are 7,076 MMT of carbon dioxide equivalent.

  3. 3.

    Using AEO 2008 detailed tables, Table 10—Energy consumption by sector and source. In 2008, the residential sector accounted for 23 EJ of primary energy consumption. The national primary energy consumption was 108 EJ.

  4. 4.

    The NRDC study defines idle as the state where the user is simply not providing input to the console via the controller. With this definition, idle and active power consumption are very similar. We define idle in “Data and Assumptions”.

  5. 5.

    The Kinect electricity use was not included in this study because this study estimates the electricity consumption of consoles over the year 2010, and the Kinect was not released until November 2010. It would thus contribute little to the electricity consumption over the year.


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This work was supported, in part, by the Environmental Protection Agency through the EPA STAR fellowship, the Gordon Moore Foundation, the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center (CEIC), and the center for Climate and Energy Decision Making (SES-0949710), through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University. We would like to thank Marla Sanchez, H. Scott Matthews, Mike Blackhurst, and Jay Apt for helpful discussions and Katharine Kaplan and Paul Karaffa at EPA ENERGY STAR for their feedback on this work. No funding agencies had any role in the collection, analysis or interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

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Correspondence to Eric Hittinger.

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Hittinger, E., Mullins, K.A. & Azevedo, I.L. Electricity consumption and energy savings potential of video game consoles in the United States. Energy Efficiency 5, 531–545 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12053-012-9152-z

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  • Video game consoles
  • Electricity consumption
  • Auto power down
  • Efficiency