Shutting down gamers to save energy

US States California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have banned the sale of high-end gaming PCs under a new energy bill.

“This product (Alienware, a gaming-specific computer company owned by Dell) cannot be shipped to the states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont or Washington due to power consumption regulations adopted by those states,” reads a prominent warning on Dell’s online shop for the affected computers. “Any orders placed that are bound for those states will be canceled.”

The California Energy Bill was written in 2017, and recently went into effect. This led to the other US States outside of California joining in; effectively banning high-end pre-built gaming PCs.

California had recently published a paper looking into the power efficiency of computer gaming which said the following:

Systems used for computer gaming in California consumed 4.1 terawatt-hours/year in 2016 or $700 million in energy bills, with emissions of 1.5 million tons carbon dioxide-equivalent allocated 66 percent to consoles, 31 percent to desktop personal computers, 3 percent to laptops, and less than 1 percent to emerging media streaming devices.

Key findings include:
• Aggregate energy demand places gaming among the top plug loads in California, with gaming representing one-fifth of the state’s total miscellaneous residential energy use.
• Market structure changes could substantially affect statewide energy use; energy demand could rise by 114 percent by 2021 under intensified desktop gaming, or fall by 24 percent given a major shift towards consoles coupled with energy efficiency gains.
• Unit energy consumption is remarkably varied across gaming platform types: across 26 systems tested, client-side electricity use ranged from 5 to more than 1,200 kWh per year, reflecting equipment choice and usage patterns.
• Some emerging technologies and activities are driving energy demand higher, including processor overclocking, cloud-based gaming, higher-resolution connected displays, and virtual reality gaming.
• User behavior influences gaming energy use more than technology choice; duty cycle and game choice are particularly strong drivers of demand.
• Energy efficiency opportunities are substantial, about 50 percent on a per-system basis for personal computers and 40 percent for consoles if past rates of improvement continue.

While simultaneously quantifying efficiency and gaming performance is problematic, evidence suggests that efficiency can be improved while maintaining or improving user experience. 

Basically, they can’t control their power grid so they’re going after the basement dwellers who will probably passively accept the punitive treatment. And ironically, the restrictions that will keep overpowered gaming rigs out of California may not apply to far more energy-intensive and environmentally-damaging practices like crypto mining.