If you've purchased a computer in the last fifteen years, you've probably seen the Energy Star logo at one point or another. They're an international standard for energy-efficient consumer products, including televisions, appliances, even light bulbs. Now, for the first time, they're turning their conservationist eye on game consoles.
Console manufacturers who want to slap the Energy Star logo on their products are going to have to keep a few things in mind during the design process. Power consumption needs to be at a pretty low level when the system is off or on standby. Also, consoles will be required to power down automatically after an hour of inactivity. If the system has DVD or Blu-Ray playback capability, there is an additional series of standards (applying to set-top boxes) which will have to be met.
On the plus side, products which meet the Energy Star standard are really good for electrical bills. Most major appliances bearing the seal of approval consume 20-30% less power than comparable units which lack it. Other electronic devices can save as much as 90%.
The new standards go into effect in July of 2010, which is about when I'd expect to start seeing new consoles gearing up. I do wonder how much difference it would make in the consumer's eyes whether or not a console had the Energy Star logo on it or not. I know that if it came down to choosing a system to buy, I'm not really looking to find out how energy-efficient it is, but it would be a nice touch.