Sustainabilty Tops Society, Supplier and Manufacturer Goals

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Sustainability Tops Society, Supplier and Manufacturer Goals

Industry sustainability challenges highlighted the opening day at SEMICON Japan, held on December 3-5 at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan. This was the first multiple-keynote session focusing on a critical industry topic in the exposition’s 32-year history. Underscoring the importance of the subject, the 700+ seat conference venue quickly sold out in two days and was satellite broadcast in three additional locations in Japan.


Takeho Hoshino, Director of Commerce and Information Policy Bureau, Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry began the morning session with an overview of METI’s policies and perspectives on the semiconductor industry. In the government’s post-Kyoto framework, Japan is targeting to cut the country’s CO2 by half by 2050. Through “energy efficient innovation,” the semiconductor industry is viewed as a critical asset to achieve this aggressive goal.

Semiconductor technology has already helped reduce energy consumption in Japan appliances over the past ten years by 60% in refrigerators, 80% in displays, and 75% in air conditioners. However, Hoshino-san outlined the complexities of reaching the CO2 reduction target by explaining the difficulty in reducing IT energy use while computing applications and data volumes are growing so rapidly. To overcome this dilemma, “Green Cloud Computing”—or reliance on Internet-based applications and data center processing--will play a major role to achieve better computer processing utilization and efficiency.

To help create more efficient data centers, the government established the Green IT Promotion Council in February of this year with a budget $6.8 billion yen. Next generation semiconductor technology will play a critical role in this government initiative. Among the technologies discussed included EUV lithography, silicon photonics, multi-core processors, advanced power semiconductors, and 3D packaging. In addition to helping address climate change, Green IT is also seen by METI as a way to improve world competitiveness and national security.


Masahi Maramachi, corporate senior vice president at Toshiba and Group CEO for Toshiba’s Electronics Devices Group, gave a thorough review of his company’s business strategy and sustainability goals with a focus on three major application areas: Home, Mobile and Automotive. Home products will become more eco-conscious, mobile products will feature 4G communications and next generation applications, and automotive trends will be marked by the transition to hybrid and electric vehicles. Products that will illustrate these trends include eye-wear computers, wearable and flexible PCs, personal navigators, networked home appliances and home servers, and automobile collision avoidance systems.

Rather than focusing on the next quarter or next year, Toshiba’s Environmental Vision extends to the year 2050. CO2 reduction targets will be achieved by two principal means: energy supply transition to nuclear and renewable energy, and energy usage reduction in Toshiba products. In energy supply transition, the company is planning to reduce CO2 emissions by 82 billion tons by 2025. In energy usage, 35.7 billion tons of CO2 will be reduced by more efficient products (primarily LED and OLED lighting). The 120 tons of CO2 planned for reduction by Toshiba alone is approximately twice as much emitted by the entire city of Tokyo in a year.

Tetsuro Higashi, chairman and CEO of Tokyo Electron outlined his company’s commitment to reducing energy in TEL’s direct business, as well as helping solve global-scale environmental issues. Higashi-san described several macro trends that will impact climate change. The first is the Internet. Today, 1.4 billion people are connected to the Web, representing only 21.9% of the world’s population. Another key trend is urbanization. Both trends will have a profound impact on energy production and distribution. Echoing METI, Higashi said that cloud computing with a variety of pervasive thin clients could possibly be the next killer application, driving major developments in computer usage, placement, and energy use. He sees, “global economic development with multi polar co-existence coming” that will “flatten” information processing. To achieve these goals, Higashi sees greater collaboration needed between universities, consortia, customers and suppliers as critical.

Frank Huang, chairman of Powerchip Semiconductor Corp. sees semiconductor products working to reduce energy consumption everywhere. As current chairman of the World Semiconductor Council (WSC), his vision encompasses green fabs, green IC products, and green end products leading to a green society. In green fabs, WSC members have already reduced energy consumption by 10% since 2001 despite huge production increases, with more opportunities for continuing progress. Green semiconductor products with lower power consumption and greater performance have enabled green end products, both directly with low power chips, and indirectly through smarter products with energy saving features such as standby modes and variable speed drives. This semiconductor-enabled green innovation is helping create a green society, or an “energy efficient social system.” Aspects of today’s green society include telecommuting and teleconferencing, distance learning and intelligent transport systems to name a few.

All the speakers commented on the current economic downturn and emphasized how sustainable practices and innovative sustainable technologies compliment business and financial imperatives. As Hoshino-san observed, green not only signifies energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmentally sound practices, it also represents “hope and growth”-- a new springtime for the industry.

Jan 21, 2009