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This paper shows how cognitive radio (CR) can help to optimize system power consumption of multiple input multiple output (MIMO) communication systems. Leveraging results from information theory and capabilities of a CR (e.g., the awareness of the component capabilities and characteristics), a theoretical framework is developed to minimize the system power consumption of MIMO systems while still considering radiated power. This paper mathematically formulates the system power consumption minimization problem under a sum rate constraint for MIMO systems. The impact of channel correlation and partial channel state information at the transmitter is considered. Numerical algorithms are developed to solve the constrained optimization problem. The simulation results show that significant power savings (e.g., up to 75% for a 4 × 4 MIMO system with Class A power amplifiers) can be achieved compared to conventional power allocation schemes. The results also show that the more computationally efficient suboptimal heuristic algorithms can achieve power savings comparable to the exhaustive search algorithm.