Global energy crisis highlights need for semiconductor sector to be more sustainable

Information and computing technology is projected to consume up to 20 per cent of global energy demand by 2030. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - Becoming more sustainable is one of the key challenges facing the semiconductor industry, with the green transformation gaining more importance as the world grapples with an energy crisis.

This was one of the key messages at the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA) Summit on Thursday as speakers, including Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan, touched on how the sector can embark on its green transformation.

Speaking at the conference held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Marina Bay, Mr Tan noted how the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the important role that semiconductors play.

"Covid-19 has taught us the importance of the semiconductor industry in terms of the rise in the use of technology and the rise of electrification," he added.

Acknowledging that the industry's transition to greener practices will be difficult, Mr Tan said the Government will help the sector reach its sustainability goals.

Information and computing technology is projected to consume up to 20 per cent of global energy demand by 2030, with chip manufacturing accounting for most of its carbon footprint.

Mr Tan said strategies in the area of sustainability will be highlighted in the electronics industry transformation map, along with strategies in areas such as talent and innovation, where the industry is also facing challenges.

The Economic Development Board will share more details about these plans in October, he added.

The call to go greener is now even more important with the spike in energy prices and the upcoming increase in carbon tax, said SSIA chairman Andrew Chong.

"The pain, we will suffer anyway, but we mustn't lose this opportunity to understand the messaging, that we need to change and be more efficient and think through our processes," he added.

Adopting cleaner energy and refining the manufacturing process could be some of the ways the industry can cut down on its carbon footprint, said business leaders.

Mr Russell Tham, head of strategic development at Temasek International, said the semiconductor sector could help generate more demand for cleaner energy as well as rapidly adopt more energy-efficient cooling techniques.

Mr Kenneth Ng, global sustainability lead at gaming firm Razer, said companies, in addition to improving industry knowledge, can also expose and train their employees in the field of sustainability so they will be able to find ways to integrate green practices into a product's life cycle.

He said Razer is looking at every step of its production - from acquiring raw materials to transporting products - to see how each stage can be made more environmentally friendly.

MOS for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan (left) and Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association chairman Andrew Chong at the SSIA Summit. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Striving to become more transparent in the reporting of their sustainability journey will also drive companies to spend more time thinking about where they can cut emissions, and also allow them to track progress, said Ms Tok Xinying, head of South-east Asia at environmental consultancy Carbon Trust.

Noting that ways to cut down on carbon emissions often depend a lot on digitalisation and automation, she added: "If the semiconductor industry wants to contribute to (the fight against) the climate crisis in the most impactful manner, it will have to look at its own carbon footprint."

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