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March 28, 2023

Chip Industry Path to Net Zero – Insights from Sustainability Summit at SEMICON Taiwan 2022

As the pace quickens worldwide to reduce carbon emissions, more countries are forging plans aligned with the Paris Agreement to achieve net zero by 2050. After Taiwan announced its pathway to net zero in March 2022, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) under the Executive Yuan evolved the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act into a more comprehensive Climate Change Response Act to put legislative muscle behind the target.

“The Executive Yuan has approved the plan to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10% in 2025, and might take it even further to 20% by 2030,” said Ling-Yi Tsai, Director General of the EPA’s Office of Climate Change, speaking at the Semiconductor Sustainability Summit at SEMICON Taiwan 2022.

With global semiconductor manufacturing’s significant carbon footprint, the industry’s collective might will be necessary to reduce GHG emissions to net zero. According to the GHG Protocol, there are three types of GHG emissions:

  • ImageScope 1 – direct emissions from business operations and manufacturing
  • Scope 2 – indirect emissions including those from power plants to meet business energy requirements
  • Scope 3 – all other indirect supply chain emissions from the delivery of products and services

Semiconductor Sustainability Summit keynote speaker Kai Beckmann, CEO of the Electronics division of Merck, said the U.S. semiconductor industry produced 41 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2020 Fully 80% of that total fell in the Scope 1 and Scope 2 categories, offering a glimpse into the chip industry’ potential to cut emissions by transforming manufacturing processes.

With the chip industry in hot pursuit of net zero, major fabs are working to transform their production lines to be more eco-friendly. Carbon emissions of semiconductor production equipment, in particular, is becoming a chief concern. To reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, companies across the global semiconductor value chain must work together to develop innovative energy-saving technologies, deploy emerging energy sources, conduct in-depth analysis of supply chain emissions, and widely share updates on the industry’s progress.



SEMICON Taiwan 2022 Sustainability Summit participants, left to right: Bart Y.C Chiang, Director, Micron Technology Taiwan; Apaul Chang, Project Director, Macronix International; Alex Shen, Senior Vice President, DAS Asia & General Manager DAS Taiwan; B.S., Director, ASE; Sterling Lin, Vice President, Hermes-Epitek; Peggy Liu, Director, ASE Holding Company; Joseph C.H., Vice President, NANYA; Jwu-Sheng Hu, Senior Vice President, ITRI; Elley Huang, General Manager, GreenFILTEC; Berry Tseng, Sr. Director, Air Liquide Far Eastern; Ana Li, Senior Marketing Manager, Edwards Vacuum; Anthony Kuo, Associate Dean and Professor, NYCU; Lawrence Hu, Taiwan Regional Sales Director, DuPont; Ching-Tien Lee, Deputy Director, Powerchip


Advanced Manufacturing: A Double-Edged Sword for Carbon Reduction

For the semiconductor industry to achieve carbon neutrality, the development of novel energy technologies will need to keep pace with the fast clip of semiconductor manufacturing innovations that are enabling smaller chips with higher performance such as the promising 5nm process.

Speaking at the SEMICON West Sustainability Summit last year, TSMC Chairman Mark Liu pointed out that advanced manufacturing will sharply cut chip power consumption to help reduce the carbon footprint of the devices.

“Power consumption of a 5nm wafer is only 7% of that of a 28nm wafer, and the 3nm will definitely go down this road too in the future,” Liu said. “In other words, the more advanced manufacturing becomes, the less carbon emissions a chip produces throughout its life cycle. That is why TSMC keeps innovating its manufacturing technology. We believe doing so will make a significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions worldwide.”

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The flip side is that higher energy efficiency does not necessarily translate to lower emissions from semiconductor manufacturing process,” said Lars-Åke Ragnarsson, Program Director Sustainable Semiconductor Technologies and Systems at imec, who spoke at the Semiconductor Sustainability Summit at SEMICON Taiwan. In fact, the increasing complexity and wiring of a 5nm wafer may fuel higher emissions.

“As transistors get smaller, their interior interconnections are increasing, requiring more manufacturing steps in areas like deposition and etching that will produce quite an amount of GHG emissions,” Ragnarsson said. “What’s needed is extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography technology to minimize emissions during semiconductor fabrication.”


SEMICON Taiwan 2022 Sustainability Summit participants, left to right: Jerry Liu, Senior Vice President, Dell Technologies; Bart Chiang, OMT EHS Director, Micron; Dr. Floryan Decampo, Solvay Technology Solutions and Electronic Chemicals Business Director; Solvay Shanghai; Jenny Bloomfield, Representative, Australian Office; Joseph C.H. Wu, Vice President, NANYA; Jwu-Sheng Hu, Senior Vice President, ITRI; Jo-Ann Su, Senior Director, SEMI Taiwan; Dr. Bess NG (Yi Fung), Associate Principal of Sustainability Business; Schneider Electric; Olivier LETESSIER, President of Air Liquide Far Eastern (Taiwan) and Vice President of Greater China Cluster EL, Air Liquide Far Easter


Renewables and Alternative Materials for Green Manufacturing

For their part, semiconductor materials suppliers are working to develop renewable and alternative materials such as hydrogen energy, a major energy source in the pathway to net zero. The reason: It is easy to store and deliver across borders. The Japanese and Australian governments have been cooperating to develop hydrogen supplies for years and plan to transport liquid hydrogen from Australia to Japan.

“Hydrogen energy may not be a solution to all the problems on the path to net zero for semiconductors, though it does play a huge part in energy transition,” said Olivier Letessier, President of Air Liquide Far Eastern. “Air Liquide Far Eastern is committed to helping the industry improve energy efficiency and better utilize renewables. While other solutions such as biomass gas are also available, quite a number of companies are working on hydrogen energy now. As the adoption rate goes up, the price will go down. Hydrogen will surely become a key energy source in the future.”

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Solvay, a supplier of alternative materials, is applying hard science to developing innovations to reduce waste by-products of semiconductor manufacturing, said Floryan De Campo, Global Business Director Electronic Chemicals of Technology Solutions at the company.

Chipmakers use Solvay’s Interox and Solvaclean materials to recycle polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and reduce industrial waste by about 30%, De Campo said. A hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) product, Interox, a chemical typically used for cleaning wafer impurities and wafer etching, is a green oxidant that decomposes into water and oxygen causes no environmental no harm. Solvaclean is an environmentally friendly fluorinated gas mixture formulated to replace three major cleaning gases – C2F6, CF4 and NF3. Used to clean reaction chambers, Solvaclean helps makes semiconductor manufacturing more eco-friendly.

Collaboration Key to Sustainability Transformation

Bess Ng, Associate Principal of the Sustainability Business at Schneider Electric, a founding member of the Semiconductor Climate Consortium, said collaboration across the supply chain is key to for the industry to achieve its sustainability ambitions. The company has proposed the S (strategize) – D (digitize) – D (decarbonize) pathway to sustainability for the industry. The idea is that, for companies to remain competitive in a greener future, they must enhance operational efficiency using digital technology while conserving energy and reducing carbon emissions via electrification.

Last April Schneider Electric launched a zero-carbon project that will entail working with 1,000 suppliers to halve GHG emissions by 2050. As of July 2022, more than 1,000 suppliers had already signed on to the project, yet more than 70% of them have not yet quantified their emissions.

“Evaluating your company data with digital tools and evaluating, tracking and making improvements will be the very first step in implementing corporate sustainability initiatives,” Ng emphasized.

SEMI Taiwan Sustainable Manufacturing Committee

SEMI Taiwan established the Sustainable Manufacturing Committee in 2022, with the aim to grow the group into an international collaborative that helps accelerate the semiconductor ecosystem’s sustainability transformation. Joseph Wu, Vice President of Nanya Technology, is the committee’s founding Chairman and Jwu-Sheng Hu, Senior Vice President of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), serves as Vice Chairman.


Chairman Wu expressed his gratitude to SEMI for establishing the committee and peopling it with more than 15 industry experts work. The committee will be divided into three working groups to promote wider chip industry adoption of environmental methodologies, tools, software and solutions, develop an environmental technology education program for supply chain workers, and help the semiconductor industry deepen its connections with the environmental ecosystem. Wu said committee members will in time integrate with the SEMI Sustainability Initiative to expand its work to develop sustainability initiatives, accelerate the industry’s sustainability transformation, and make Taiwan a force to be reckoned with in the greening of the global semiconductor industry.