It’s time to bid farewell. To fire. Mastering fire was a huge step for the human race. You could say that’s what we built our civilization on. But with the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we are paying a price for it that has become very high – too high, in fact. Our society is caught in a dilemma, yet there are ways to solve the dilemma. Technical progress allows us to produce the energy we need in a different way. Electricity is the highest quality type of energy and can easily be converted into light, motion, and heat. We can generate it from renewable, climate-neutral sources like the sun, wind, and water. That makes it the key to a climate-neutral energy supply that at the same time enables quality of life and climate protection.
If we want to achieve climate neutrality by the middle of the century, we must speed up the resource and technology transition. 4,200 gigawatts of new solar power are needed by 2030 – that corresponds to a fivefold increase in global capacity compared to 2020. And the installed photovoltaic capacity worldwide needs to be increased by as much as a factor of twenty by 2050. That requires a global effort.
We can use electric power to make use of energy sources like green hydrogen or ammonia, which can be generated with solar and wind power and, if necessary, also be converted back into electricity. That makes it possible to also store electricity on a large scale. Basically, we are copying what nature has been able to do for a long time, except on a much larger scale and without CO2.
As a result, we will also be able to decarbonize energy-intensive applications like ship and truck drive systems, and significantly reduce the CO2 emissions of key technologies such as steel and cement production.
To exploit the full potential of electrification, the green conversion must go hand in hand with a digitalization strategy. Digitalized networks, so-called smart grids, can better coordinate power generation and consumption. Sensors enable smart and energy-saving control of building technology – with a high level of convenience. Connected electric vehicles optimize the flow of traffic. Automation in Industry 4.0 saves resources and reduces energy consumption.
The goal of climate neutrality cannot be achieved without innovations. Almost half of the required emission reductions by 2050 depend on technologies that we already master today, but still need to be developed further to be applied on the gigantic scale that is needed. But we also need a whole range of new ideas, which is why we appreciate it when the European Union supports further research and cooperation between companies in climate-relevant industries. That also includes the semiconductor sector, which is a key industry for the generation and management of electric power and digitalization.
Semiconductors play a central role in the energy transition. They help generate green electricity, and transport, use and store it efficiently. Every chip built by Infineon already saves on average 30 times more CO2 emissions than were needed to build them. New base materials such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride minimize heat losses in semiconductors by half compared with silicon chips. That not only reduces wasteful energy loss in power units, for example, but also increases the range of electric vehicles, and raises the voltage equalization in solar and wind power plants to a new level of efficiency.
The goals have been set and everyone is aware of them, so now it’s time to stop talking and start doing. We shouldn’t now get lost in the detail of the various challenges and outdo ourselves with targets. The saying – the path is the goal – has never been more appropriate. It’s a matter of not losing sight of the bigger picture in relation to society as a whole and, as a company, delivering system solutions that provide real benefit for the users.
For that we need courage and truthfulness. We will only achieve ambitious goals if we get going and adapt as soon as we recognize that the path we have chosen is the wrong one. We can also learn from nature in this respect. Evolution shows us how successful we are when we adapt and abandon approaches that are unsuccessful. We can do it better, but it won’t work without the composure to fail and the absolute determination to shape a future worth living for people. Part of this future is to shape an intact environment.
The author of the article Dr. Reinhard Ploss is the Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of Infineon Technologies AG