A new report from the Natural Resource Defense Council concludes that the newest generation of game consoles consumer way too much power. The report notes that these new systems are on track to consume as much power nationwide as all the homes in Houston this year. That equates to about $1 billion to operate these systems annually.
Much of this energy is consumed in "the middle of the night, when the console is in standby mode but still listening for voice commands or using higher power than necessary to keep USB ports active."
The NRDC says that game console manufacturers should do more to "leverage design best practices to reduce console energy consumption as soon as possible, before too many units of the current models are sold and lock in high energy consumption for their owners for the next five years."
The NRDC performed extensive laboratory tests on the latest generation of the most popular consoles – the Nintendo Wii U, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One – and found they "have incorporated many energy efficiency features into their designs and offer greater performance." Despite those efforts, the PS4 and Xbox One consume "two to three times more annual energy than the most recent models of their predecessors." The Wii U performed a lot better when compared to the Wii, "despite providing higher definition graphics and processing capabilities, in large part thanks to its very low power in connected standby mode."
NRDC projects that these three brands of new consoles will use roughly 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually in the United States alone, once all previous-generation consoles in use have been replaced by new ones.
The analysis also concluded that these new consoles consume more energy playing video or in standby mode than when playing actual games. The Xbox One and PS4 consume two to three times more annual energy than the latest models of their predecessors, the Xbox 360 and PS3.
"While the new versions are more powerful, the two- to three-fold increase in energy use is due to higher power demand in standby and on modes and, in the case of the Xbox One, more time switched on due to its TV viewing mode. In this mode, the console is used in addition to the current set-top box to access cable or satellite TV, adding 72 watts to TV viewing."
NRDC's latest report includes several recommendations on how console manufacturers can bring down the energy use of these consoles:
Reducing Xbox One power draw when in connected standby with voice command enabled.
Reducing PS4 power draw in standby with USB ports live (when no device is charging).
Reducing Xbox One TV-mode power, and giving users the option to watch TV when the console is off or in a very low-power state.
On both the Xbox One and PS4, reducing video-streaming power to levels closer to that of a dedicated video player.
Allowing users to opt out of "Instant On" and voice-command features in Xbox One's out-of-the-box setup menu, so they use this high-energy-consumptive mode only if they choose to.
You can check out the NRDC report here.