Worldwide demand for electrical energy is increasing all the time and indications suggest that it will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Oil giant Exxon Mobil has, in fact, predicted that by 2030, global electricity demand will hit 30,000TWh, twice the amount required in 2012.
But given the rising cost of oil and gas, the present scenario is considered by many to be unsustainable. One of the people casting doubt on the current model is Robert Krysiak, the executive vice-president and general manager for the Americas at STMicroelectronics, which designs, develops, manufactures and markets a range of semiconductor products.
According to Mr Krysiak, the semiconductor industry will play an increasingly pivotal role in energy in the future.
Explaining that there are two possible paths the energy industry could take, Mr Krysiak said: "The first is to reduce the amount of power each electrical product and application consumes and to make the generation and distribution of electrical energy more efficient, while the second is to change consumers' energy-consumption patterns. Semiconductor technology has a crucial role to play in both."
He explained that electricity consumption can be divided into three main categories: electric motors (55 percent), power supplies (24 percent) and lighting (21 percent). But while today's technologies and systems have been developed "with a mindset that we could call 'P2' - price versus performance", Mr Krysiak observed that mankind needs to adopt a 'P3' mindset - "optimizing power consumption, performance and price".
One effective way of helping to reduce power consumption, he explained, is to encourage consumers to adopt alternative power sources, including solar panels and wind turbines.
"Chip companies," Mr Krysiak said, "are working hard to utilize accumulated expertise in silicon technology, electronic circuitry and system architecture to make renewable sources more cost-effective in producing, storing and distributing energy."
He also observed that the development and deployment of smart grids could help conserve power and redistribute it to the areas where it's most needed. One of the many advantages of smart grids is that they facilitate the wider deployment of renewable sources.
Concluding that the semiconductor industry should be at the centre of the energy revolution, Mr Krysiak said that it is important that firms come together on a global level, adding that "the time for co-operation is now".