How CEC Regulations Affect Gamers and System Integrators

As of July 1st, 2021, new regulations from the California Energy Commission came into effect, but how does that affect you and the gaming PC’s that you buy? In this article, we’ll explain that as simply as we can manage.

TL;DR

You won’t, or at least shouldn’t, see any real effects on high-end gaming computers. Any gaming PC with at least a Gold standard rated PSU and either a high-expandability qualified motherboard or an Nvidia RTX 3070 TI at a minimum can be approved by the CEC and sold in California. This only affects completed pre-built systems and does not affect custom-built PC services or individual DIY components. So long as they meet high expandability standards, gaming PCs are in no way illegal to buy or sell in California.

What meets CEC Guidelines?

Computers must meet a certain efficiency standard by using up to a certain amount of kWh per year or meet high expandability requirements. While recently Dell and Alienware blamed stricter energy regulation as their reason for halting sales in California, they also failed to meet high expandability qualifications which is where we’ll be focusing on since they’re more relevant to gaming PC’s.

Three primary components define whether a computer is CEC Compliant: the power supply, the motherboard, and the graphics card.

The Power Supply

PC Power supplies are required to be 80 Plus Gold Certified to meet efficiency standards. Compliant power supplies are easily identifiable with the “Gold” logo, although there are levels that exceed the requirements.

The Motherboard

Motherboards must either meet efficiency standards or high expandability standards. High expandability is calculated based on the number of features and usable ports on the motherboard. Certain features are more heavily weighted than others. For example, a USB 3.2 port counts for more points than a USB 2.0 port, or an M.2 NVMe slot will score higher than SATA ports.

The Graphics Card

The CEC Guidelines for the most part use VRAM Bandwidth as a measurement for high expandability. They require 6000 GB/ps, but in more plain terms, an nVidia RTX 2080 TI, 3070 TI and above will meet the guidelines.

What are the CEC Regulations Targeting?

The regulation is primarily targeting energy consumption during idle states, I.E. when a computer is in hibernation, sleep, or off. They are NOT interfering with how much power it consumes while gaming or working. These regulations only affect pre-built systems, not custom build services or individual PC components.

Screenshot explanation of the trajectory of computing power needed will exceed the world's energy production by 2040.

A study conducted in 2015 by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) concluded that if the current CPU energy consumption continues, labeled in the graph as “Benchmark (system) – 10-14 J/bit,” then computing will exceed the world’s energy production and won’t be sustainable by 2040. The group’s report, “Rebooting the IT Revolution,” then recommends that discoveries in better energy consumption need to happen soon so this falls in line with the new CEC regulations in effect.

So with all that said, does your computer need to be a high-end gaming system to be CEC Compliant? No. The power supply does need to be 80 Plus Gold Certified, but following that, only the motherboard or graphics card needs to be high expandability, not both. You can still have value-oriented builds, but the motherboard will feature more I/O by default as opposed to sparse entry-level boards or even OEM motherboards.

Can I Still Buy a Gaming PC?

The tightened CEC Regulations will have practically no noticeable effects on the end-user. Prebuilt PCs will have significantly better power efficiency in idle states and have more expandability on the motherboard which can extend the lifetime usability of a computer.  

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