PES in 2014
The Focus is on Membership
The beginning of 2014 offers a change in the leadership of the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES). During the past several years, the Society has experienced unprecedented growth of membership, business activities, and member services. Under the leadership of previous presidents, Noel Schulz, Al Rotz, and Wanda Reder, the membership of our Society has almost doubled to over 30,000 members, and we maintain our position as the third-largest IEEE Society, after the Computer and Communications Societies. Almost 3/4 of our members reside in Regions 1–7 (United States and Canada). Because of that, one of our biggest opportunities is to continue expanding and reinforcing membership in Regions 8–10. As a result, the leadership of the Society and its Governing Board have been increasingly incorporating volunteers from those Regions. We have many ideas about how to continue, improve, and enhance the portfolio of services to our members in the United States and Canada, while recognizing the need to identify and address the challenges and specific needs of Regions 8–10 members, where we will rely on the experience and resourcefulness of volunteer leaders from those Regions to find the best solutions for our globally disseminated members.
Some time ago, this column analyzed the case for PES membership renewal. The value of being a member differs somewhat among various geographic locations. For example, members in Regions 1–6 often find their best point of contact in large Chapters, some of which are larger than the entire national PES membership of some small countries. Such is the case, for example, with the Atlanta Chapter. With over 400 members, our monthly meetings often bring together 40–60 people. Meetings include a (subsidized, but nice) luncheon and interesting technical presentations. Such meetings are harder to organize in large cities outside of the United States.
Shanghai, for example, has a population greater than the entire country of Australia. The metropolitan area is spread over dozens of square kilometers, and the traffic that serves it is based on an infrastructure that can barely cope with the tremendous challenges as a result of the rapid growth of the city and its economy. Having spent almost a year living in China (in several installments) while teaching as part of the joint graduate programs that my employer, Georgia Institute of Technology, started in partnership with Chinese universities, I had an opportunity to learn about life in large Chinese cities. By meeting many new friends and colleagues and discussing with them the advantages and idiosyncrasies of life in very densely populated areas, I learned about what might and what might not be part of the value-added proposition for our members in Regions 8–10. For example, regular face-to-face meetings of the membership sprawled across wide areas might be a difficult proposition if the goal is to attract large audiences, especially when the members are working long hours and solving challenging problems, as is the case in Tokyo, where the consequences of the 2011 catastrophic earthquake are still reverberating in people’s minds and posing tremendous challenge to TEPCO and associated industries, where many of our Japanese members are employed. The enthusiasm for meetings, conferences, educational activities, and publications is great, but it may require fitting the specific requirements of the lifestyle and culture to best address those needs with available resources.
IEEE has long been in the forefront of using the most advanced technologies in communications. In trying to address the needs of our growing membership, we may need to bring that to an even higher level, using innovate communications to bring meetings to wherever convenience and opportunity dictate.
Seminars, workshops, and even virtual conferences may be organized to permit participation from home or the workplace. Many of our educational programs are now offered as Webinars, and this tendency is going hand in hand with the rapid emergence of the massively subscribed open access courses that universities around the world are beginning to offer. Where exactly will this transition to online education take us is still hard to predict. We need to participate and look for opportunities.
Yet another challenge in Regions 8–10 is the limited number of engineers who understand and speak fluent English. For them, the value of the wealth of technical information found in databases like IEEE Xplore is limited. There are many ways in which we might improve our services to better meet the needs of non-English speakers. For example, at the Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) Conference held in São Paulo, Brazil, in April 2013, a number of panel sessions and paper presentations were delivered in Portuguese, the native language of Brazil. The opening session was organized with simultaneous translation to English and Portuguese. In this activity, PES does not have much experience, but by many accounts, the conference was a great success.
Another way to address the needs of non-English speakers would be to offer publications in their native languages. There are many issues that need to be resolved before this can happen. The content, translation, copyright, marketing, financing, and on-site support would have to be decided and implemented before such proposals would have a chance of being successfully implemented. The accelerating and hopefully unstoppable march of our membership growth requires us to seriously think and invest in the needs of our members across the globe. That process, which has already started and is beginning to show first results, must be accelerated substantially in the years to come.
Of course, the internationalization and globalization of our activities are not the only issue on which we are focusing. Many of our ongoing activities require transformations and adjustments as they meet the challenge of external and internal factors of influence. For example, a growing and enthusiastic transition of interest to open access publications, which has occurred in the past few years, represents both an opportunity and potential challenge to one of the vital sources of revenue for our Society and IEEE in general. With a business model that is not yet fully understood, even by the publishers who have enthusiastically embraced it, it behooves us to make inroads into the new publication business with caution, prudence, and courage. All of our well-respected transactions are already hybrid journals, meaning that the articles published therein could be either open access or traditional (no up-front fees from the authors). We are planning to add a few new publications to that group, which would be exclusively open access, and would not compete with our existing publications but rather address different needs of the marketplace. The ultimate success of the open access concept and new contextual directions may require adaptation as new initiatives start competing for their place in the market. Along with our colleagues from other Societies, we will continue exploring, learning about, and investing in those new technologies. We will also actively seek to develop the means and ways to stabilize and boost the revenue brought about by our various publishing activities.
Our conferences, which currently amount to nearly 40 events annually around the world, continue to be an important bridge and opportunity for members to present and acquire relevant and up-to-date technical information at the highest level. Our many offerings are often linked to branded conferences, with staying power that has been tested over the years. Such is the case with the Transmission and Distribution Conference and Exhibition (T&D), which celebrates its 50th anniversary in Chicago in April 2014. T&D is PES’s largest conference, routinely attracting between 10,000 and 15,000 attendees. International conferences, like ISGT, that focus on practitioners have successfully been offered on six continents and continue to attract solid attendance while providing relevant and regionally sensitive technical content. There are a number of boutique conferences in specialized areas, some of which have been offered for decades, that PES supports through technical cosponsorship agreements, enabling their papers to become part of IEEE Xplore and accessible to wide audiences around the globe. In addition, we are seeking partnerships with other organizations, such as IET and CIGRE, to enable and promote a wider exchange of technical information for the benefit of all members.
The standards activities of PES are impressive. We currently produce nearly half of the standards approved by the IEEE Standards Association. With recent procedural changes, new smart grade standards will be developed even faster then before. Among the problems that we would like to address is the participation of industrial members in standards developing entities that could be significantly better. Yet another challenge of this post-depression economy is that many industrial employers have for some time restricted employee travel to technical conferences and technical committee meetings where important work is being done on developing technical reports, guidelines, as well as standards. One of the recent candidates for PES leadership suggested contacting employers directly and informing them periodically about the important technical and other activities that their employees contribute under the auspices of IEEE and PES. Other options include more extensive use of teleconferencing and the Internet to bring as many stakeholders together as possible while important technical work is being done.
PES has been among the first IEEE Societies to identify and take advantage of educational services as a means of enhancing value-added proposition to our membership, as well as to boost our Society’s revenue. Over the last few years, those offerings have begun to generate surpluses and have enabled us to learn to successfully formulate future programs. We are planning an ambitious expansion of educational programs, especially those geared toward practicing engineers. They will cater to all career stages. The age demographics of PES members is nonuniform. The natural replacement of engineers in their fourth or fifth decade of career will bring about a new generation of young learners, but even seasoned engineers are seeking information and refreshers about new technologies that are increasingly being deployed and implemented. The transition to new generation technologies where renewables are prominently featured has been taking place around the world for more than a decade. It is also a topic of great interest for the practitioners, who are and will continue to integrate the large amounts of new renewable power plants (in some countries already exceeding 15–20% of the total generation portfolio) while continuing to offer services like frequency and voltage control without deterioration in security, reliability, and system resilience. While practitioners around the world are embracing the new technologies and learning about the challenges of large-scale implementation of renewables, PES will assist them by developing short courses, tutorials, Webinars, workshops, conferences, publications, and books to support their quest for knowledge and to report on state-of-the-art implementation of the new technologies in the framework of modern cyberelectric power systems.
All of the discussion presented here represents only a small portion of our ongoing and planned activities. As we continue to expand and internationalize our many initiatives, we are constantly learning, sometimes from our own mistakes. Challenges of meeting the needs of a growing, multicultural, and very international membership require that we continue to transform and modify our centers of activities. Changes like these will not happen overnight and will require consultation with our large and growing membership base. In the process of finding what is best for PES and all of our members throughout the world, we will listen to our members carefully and act cautiously. Our goal as PES elected leaders is to serve the professional, educational, and other needs of our members while maintaining, preserving, and further enhancing and elevating the reputation of PES and IEEE.