Game Consoles Get Exemption From Tough EU Power Regulations

Games console manufacturers have arranged a deal with the European Commission that lets them off the hook for tough new rules on energy efficiency, has learned.

Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have all persuaded the Commission not to include their products in the EcoDesign Directive and to instead rely on a voluntary agreement instead.

Although the Commission says the self regulated agreement is “ambitious enough to deliver benefits to consumers and the environment”, the precise gaming mode of the games consoles is left out of the agreement altogether.

“Eventual energy consumption limits must also ensure that the customer’s gaming experience is not compromised,” said the Commission.

According to sources up close to the negotiations – which began in 2009 – energy experts from European national governments “walked away because they were wasting their time”. The energy use limits in the voluntary agreement cover playing music and films, as well as navigation, but do not address energy use when the consoles are in gaming mode. But the Commission says that the agreement includes a provision “to attempt to cover gaming mode” when it is revised in 2017.

Energy activists, who are unhappy with the agreement, say this is a ticket to avoid meaningful regulation. The Commission says that if it finds evidence that the agreement is not being upheld, regulatory action will be considered. As Google, Microsoft and other know this threat is not to be taken lightly.

According to advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, which carried out testing in April 2014, “the Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One consume two to three times more annual energy than the most recent models of their predecessors”. While the consoles may be more power efficient (and indeed are) than previous models they are using more overall power because they are doing so much more.

Nintendo’s Wii U is the only model to use less energy than its predecessor, despite providing higher-definition graphics and processing capabilities. This is in large part thanks to its very low power consumption when operating in connected stand-by mode.

Jack Hunter from Cool Products, a lobby group promoting energy efficiency, termed the agreement “a joke” and said that the console makers have perfected their origami skills to produce a paper tiger: “The energy caps are more generous than existing machines on the market, not less. Manufacturers can walk away whenever they want. National authorities that are failing to vet fridges, TVs and other appliances under the Ecodesign Directive are unlikely to inspect a merely voluntary agreement on consoles.”

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