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Study Gives Semiconductor Industry High Grades

Fri, 06/26/2009 - 6:55am
Nancy Maas
Editor-in-Chief
Did you know that the cumulative electricity bill savings enabled by semiconductors might exceed $1.3 trillion through 2030? Semiconductor technologies are so essential to advances in energy efficiency gains that the U.S. economy could expand by more than 70 percent through 2030 and still use 11 percent less electricity than it did in 2008, according to a major study by the nonprofit and independent American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The ACEEE report titled "Semiconductor Technologies: The Potential to Revolutionize U.S. Energy Productivity," finds that semiconductors already are the leading factor behind energy efficiency gains. 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. Had 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. Stated differently, had we continued to rely on 1976 technologies to support the U.S. economy today, we might have had to build another 184 large electric power plants to satisfy the demand for goods and services."

But we didn't and that's what is significant here. I sometimes think that semiconductors have gotten a bad rap when it comes to the connection between these devices and energy consumption. Although the connection is very powerful and underappreciated, it is misunderstood by many. No question that the electricity demands to power the very latest mobile devices has continued to increase; semiconductors have been doing their part to improve energy efficiency since the late 1970s. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (2007) reports that while the economy as a whole increased energy use by 13 percent over the period 1997 through 2007, the semiconductor industry actually cut energy use by half over that same period. Pretty impressive, don't you think?

Semiconductors are an essential tool for achieving energy efficiency in many applications and will continue to play a significant role for generations to come. The sometimes negative view that our children and grandchildren will need to adjust their expectations and learn to live with less when it comes to energy consumption may not be inevitable. As the findings of the ACEEE study clearly shows, the semiconductor industry has demonstrated and continues to make every effort to develop and produce solutions for our most critical energy issues. Through semiconductor technology, we have the ability to continue to drive economic growth, protect and improve our environment and ultimately pass on a better world for those that follow.

The full ACEEE report is available online at www.acee.org.

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