Without more efficient consumer electronics, the world will need to build hundreds of gigawatts worth of new power plants to run the exploding number of electronic gadgets, according to the International Energy Agency.
The Paris-based energy industry watchdog on Wednesday published its "Gadgets and Gigawatts" report, saying that consumer electronics already account for 15 percent of households' electricity bills and is rising rapidly.
Around the world, a growing number of people are acquiring electronics, from mobile phones to televisions, which means the total amount of electricity from electronics is poised to explode in the next two decades.
The IEA estimates that the yearly energy consumed from IT and consumer electronics is on pace to double by 2020 and triple by 2030 to 1,700 terawatt-hours. That would be the equivalent of the combined residential electricity consumption of Japan and the United States in a year.
It's clear that there is technology available to make devices more energy efficient, the IEA said. Because consumers want a long run-time, mobile devices are already more efficient than appliances that run from outlets.
"This example shows us what can be achieved. Where no such commercial drivers exist, governments must step in to ensure that we make the most of every energy efficiency opportunity," IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said in a statement.
He said that governments should "urgently implement" energy-efficiency policies. The biggest opportunity for energy savings improvements from consumer electronics companies is "making hardware and software work together more effectively to ensure that energy is only used when, and to the extent needed," the IEA said.
See CNET's Green Tech Guide which rates PCs and TVs on energy efficiency.