While the decline of PC gaming may have been greatly exaggerated, there’s solid evidence that shows sales did slide for a period of time. It would be easy to draw correlations between the very real global slowdown of PC sales and a decline in PC gaming yet curiously enough, quite the opposite is unfolding.

It’s going so well in fact that sales of PC games are forecasted to surpass sales of console games by the end of next year. PC titles are expected to generate $29 billion according to industry researcher PwC yet as a recent study published in the Energy Efficiency journal points out, it comes at a substantial energy cost.

The study found that high-end gaming systems are the fastest growing type of gaming platform around, even outpacing sales of next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony. So much for PC gaming dying, eh?

The study further discovered that gaming PCs collectively consumed 75 terawatt-hours of electricity ($10 billion) in 2012. That’s roughly 20 percent of the total PC, notebook and console energy use despite the fact that gaming PCs made up just 2.5 percent of global installed PC equipment. At the current pace, researchers believe consumption could more than double by 2020.

Armed with this data, it should come as little surprise that gaming is the most energy-intensive use of personal computers.

On average, the study estimates that the typical gaming computer consumes roughly 1,400kWh of energy per year. That’s equivalent to the energy consumed by 10 consoles, six standard PCs or three refrigerators. What’s more, hardcore gamers could easily consume double that amount or more.

The figures are no doubt sobering but as co-author Evan Mills points out, it doesn’t have to be that way. He notes that savings of up to 75 percent – or around $18 billion annually by 2020 – can be realized simply by using energy efficient components that would also improve reliability and performance.

Mills cites a lack of industry focus in educating buyers as a primary factor that’s led us to this point. Today, only power supplies and displays carry energy efficiency ratings and even those are voluntary. Expanding / highlighting such ratings in other components like motherboards, hard drives and peripherals could go a long way in educating consumers as it relates to energy use.

Another factor that has a direct impact on energy usage is time of use. Mills told Motherboard that on average, people spend 4.4 hours per day gaming – that’s nearly 20 percent of their day.

To help get their message out, Mills and his son have launched a website called Greening the Beast that helps steer PC gamers in the direction of energy efficient hardware. The site includes plenty of insightful material that may be worth a look when it comes time to build your next gaming rig.

While on the subject, we’re curious as to how much time you spend gaming each day, on average. Do you fall into the national average of 4.4 hours per day or is that figure way off for you? Let us know in the comments section below.

All images courtesy Gabriel Kulig, Flickr