SEMI Members Essential to a Sustainable World Energy Future


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SEMI Members Essential to a Sustainable World Energy Future

SEMI members are at the vanguard of the world’s most significant steps to reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate climate change. Technical achievements in manufacturing equipment and materials are among the primary sources of enormous increases in energy efficiency in computers, home appliances and industry, and are driving the rapid adoption of solar photovoltaics, fuel cells and solid state lighting. No other industry has had such a positive and wide ranging contribution to world energy efficiency and no other industry is expected to contribute more to fossil fuel reduction in the coming decades.

A recent report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) only begins to tell the story of the contributions of SEMI members to the energy efficiency. The report states: “Compared to the technologies available in 1976, we estimate that the entire family of semiconductor-enabled technologies generated a net savings of about 775 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the year 2006 alone … [H]ad we expanded the size and scope of the U.S. economy based on 1976 technologies, it appears that the U.S. would be using about 20 percent more electricity than actually consumed in 2006.”

Since 1990, the United States has expanded its economic output by nearly 62 percent but the demand for energy and power resources has grown by less than 20 percent during the same period. This decoupling of economic growth and energy consumption is a function of increased energy productivity— primarily achieved through semiconductor technologies. The significant relationship between economy-wide productivity growth and the use of semiconductor-based technologies is documented in a variety of academic studies. Faster, better and cheaper microprocessors, computers, and telecommunications equipment have accelerated both the adoption of these technologies and their growing networked use. This, in turn, has ignited changes in the way that we manufacture products, conduct business, and maintain social activities.

The achievements of SEMI members have enabled much of the rapid penetration of semiconductor technologies into all facets of modern life. While software, applications and devices arise from many countries and many sectors--and with much research and development work in the lab never seeing commercialization--every semiconductor

device is made with equipment and materials from SEMI members. SEMI members have directly enabled the dramatic cost reductions associated with Moore’s Law. They created the advanced packaging and integration of technologies that are found in every mobile phone, automobile and consumer electronics device— and helped reduce the energy requirements of every chip in data centers, corporations and factories.

Semiconductor technology contributes to the productivity gains essential to an efficient economy, but the technology is also fundamental to solar photovoltaics (PV) which will play an increasingly vital role in our energy future. While PV contributes very little (in percentage terms) today to world electric output, by the year 2030, PV systems could be generating approximately 2,600 TWh of electricity around the world, enough to satisfy the electricity needs of almost 14% of the world’s population (EPIA). In environmental terms, it would reduce annual CO2 emissions by 1.6 billion tons, equivalent to the output from 450 coal-fired power plants.

Today, virtually every mass-produced PV cell in the world is made with equipment and materials from SEMI member companies. Working with all constituents in the solar power industry, SEMI members have formed the PV Group to work together to advance the industry. The critical barrier to rapid escalation of solar power usage is cost, and PV Group members have identified a number of industry-wide initiatives that will lead to PV technology that is cost competitive fossil fuel power plants. Many of the same collaborative techniques used to accelerate cost reduction in semiconductors are now being applied to solar with great success.

Semiconductor technology converts light to energy as in PV, but it also converts energy to light in light emitting diodes, or LEDs, which are increasingly used in commercial lighting. It is estimated that 22% of the nation’s electricity, equivalent to 8% of the nation’s total energy, is used for artificial light. The cost of this energy to the consumer is roughly $50 billion per year or approximately $200 per year for every person living in the U.S. The cost of this energy to the environment is approximately 130 million tons of carbon emitted into our atmosphere, or about 7% of all the carbon emitted by the U.S. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that an efficient solid state lighting technology could save the U.S. about 620 billion kilowatt-hours per year (or approximately 50-70 power plants) by the year 2025. Like solar cells and semiconductors, the equipment and materials used to make solid state lighting are developed and made by SEMI member companies.

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Almost every solution contemplated to solve our energy problems are enabled by semiconductor technology made faster, better and cheaper by SEMI member companies. Many of these of solutions are just now being developed, such as nanotechnology fuel cells and energy harvesting chips that are powered by kinetic energy. Smart grid technologies enable a more cost-effective deployment of decentralized but cleaner renewable energy resources— such as solar panels and wind turbines. These “green” technologies are also enabled by a variety of semiconductor technologies, including sensors to measure temperature or other variables; communications chips to receive and transmit data; memory chips to store the information; and power management chips to adjust energy loads.

Another positive outcome of the ACEEE report is the conclusion that reduced energy usage in the future will necessitate reduced income and quality of life. Brian Halla, Chairman, President and CEO, National Semiconductor, said: “For many years, it has been a commonly accepted view that future generations will have to lower their expectations and plan to live in a very different world— a world in which progress will be heavily constrained by energy issues.” Fortunately, that pessimistic vision of our future need not come to pass. As the ACEEE study shows, we have the ability to continue to drive economic growth, protect and enhance our environment, and pass on a better world to future generations.”

The essential common element behind all these contributions to our energy future— and the critical component necessary to have a widespread, positive impact— are the equipment and materials provided by SEMI members. Today, chip makers don’t make solar panels and they don’t make LEDs; and solar companies don’t make chips or fuel cells or smart grid technologies. But all these companies use equipment and materials from SEMI member companies.

May 20, 2009