What We Can Accomplish Today and Tomorrow
Over the past decade, the power industry has awakened from a prolonged stagnation of investment, technology, and processes that occupied most of the last half of the 20th century. A sense of urgency has been brought to energy issues around the world, including addressing the power grid infrastructure and environmental concerns. Reliable and efficient electrical grid operation is recognized internationally as being the most critical for society as other infrastructures depend on the electrical infrastructure. Energy consumption is changing with technology and regulatory drivers. The electric power and energy industry is in a critical phase, making the transition as initiatives we take now will affect how the grid is operated in future years.
It is critical to set goals to improve the performance of electric utility systems and address the energy needs of society, such as improved efficiency and utilization; integration of renewable energy, electricity storage, and electric vehicles; demand response; power quality; and optimized management of aging assets. This approach requires system and equipment reinforcement, improved integrated system planning and operation, and increased automation. The global topic of development and deployment of a “smarter” electricity grid has been at the forefront of industry initiatives and investments around the world for last few years. However, regardless of how much “smart” technology is deployed, electrical grids are in need of upgrading as assets age and old equipment needs to be replaced or refurbished. There are limited resources for wholesale asset replacements. A sound asset management strategy is required for controlling the symptoms of aging to prevent operating cost increases and reliability decreases. As the aging workforce is also a big issue, our industry is facing a “perfect storm”: inexperienced engineers managing aging assets.
Energy consumption and forecasting are changing with technology usage and requirements (e.g., data centers), necessitating a different way of managing the grid. Grid complexity has resulted in an increased number and magnitude of system blackouts, while weather-related events have significantly disrupted electrical power delivery. This recent increase in weather-related events globally has also resulted in more public scrutiny and consequent regulatory pressure for improved response to natural disasters (such as storms and solar flares), as well as addressing physical and cyber vulnerabilities.
Recent microgrid deployments and an increased penetration of electrical vehicles also have an important regulatory and reliability impact on the grid. Microgrids, as an integrated power delivery system consisting of interconnected loads, distributed energy resources, and storage, address specific applications and needs and have the potential to change how we operate the grid. Furthermore, increased natural gas production helps address energy needs but also introduces interdependency with electric power, requiring better planning and the utilization of combined resources. In addition, the planning and development of the U.S. electric transmission system is changing dramatically as a result of FERC Order 1000 and the elimination of the right of first refusal. Since this allows nonincumbent developers (including utilities) to propose projects in the territory of another utility, it is rapidly changing how regional transmission organizations (RTOs), independent system operators (ISOs), and other organizations are developing projects.
In summary, new technologies and equipment, needs for more and different reliability, growing societal and environmental needs, and the advent of viable renewable energy and storage are trends transforming our industry at a rate that, in the past, would have been unimaginable. That change has created a huge demand for practical expertise and continuous research—for people who understand how the various aspects of both power systems and the utility business fit and work together and who have the experience, knowledge, and innovative ideas to understand how to adapt and take advantage of the new while retaining the benefit and value of what is already there.
Benefits of PES Membership
The IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) has an amazing team of volunteers who are constantly improving and taking a leading role in benefiting and shaping not only our industry but also the whole society. PES is very well positioned to provide independent and objective technical leadership to help our members worldwide (which includes regulators, utilities, RTOs/ISOs, vendors, and academia) with a required holistic and thoughtful approach. PES volunteers possess unparalleled knowledge that should be utilized by decision makers and users to draw proper conclusions and undertake the most efficient measures. For example, regulators around the world could tap on PES know-how and best practices to develop policies to address all the aforementioned complex issues in a most cost-effective way, resulting in the best way to spend taxpayers’ money and improve grid reliability.
But first, we should acknowledge the great reputation PES members have gained in the industry throughout years of dedicated and innovative work. Those efforts have provided immense benefits to the membership.
- PES members comprise fewer than 10% of overall IEEE membership but publish more than 50% of all IEEE standards. Our industry has realized the importance of developing interoperability standards for technology deployment. For example, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been coordinating the development of interoperability standards for the smart grid. PES and the IEEE Standards Association (SA), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, NIST, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and other organizations have undertaken major efforts to develop the required standards and support those international efforts. PES and the IEEE SA have shown that standards and guides could be put on the fast track to satisfy industry needs and still assure a quality review process.
- PES transactions are recognized as a gold standard for disseminating quality research and groundbreaking ideas. Universities around the world require graduate students to publish transactions papers to receive advanced degrees. This is a testament to a high-quality peer-review process. Other PES publications, such as IEEE Power & Energy Magazine and conference proceedings, provide both practical and innovative information to the worldwide members. This information is required to operate the grid more effectively and to research, develop, and deploy new technologies necessary to address grid complexities.
- Our strength is in applying best practices to have relevant output and initiatives, attracting as wide an audience as possible. Education and career development programs are good examples of our focused approach. Another example is in sharing experiences and success among our international conferences. The Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) conferences around the world have been a major driver in spreading understanding and the deployment of smart grid technologies and promoting research. In general, sponsoring global conferences enables the exchange of research ideas and best practices across our Society.
- The number of PES Chapters has increased by 39 since 2007, showing a continuous need to grow internationally and the increased value of the PES membership. The increased visibility of our programs through Chapters further enables us to sponsor more programs, nurturing growth in the industry and technology.
- Our scholarship and graduate programs have resulted in attracting a new generation to our industry and to PES.
As our nature is to do better, it is very important to continue benefiting from the inventive ideas of our members. The following are some of our collective ideas (not in a particular order of preference):
- Promote members to be technical leaders in supporting the development of key regulatory policies and industry initiatives.
- Increase membership at diverse age groups, company positions, etc., by broadly communicating the benefits of being a PES member.
- Further strengthen our global and gender/race diversity.
- Respond to changing industry needs with PES organization adapting to those changes.
Some ideas, based on your comments, and how to accomplish the above are proposed below. Your active participation is critical for making continuous improvements.
A regulating entity that needs technical advice should ask PES for help. First, the process needs to be established where the entity would request help through PES channels. Then PES, through the appropriate technical committees (TCs), should respond in a structured and timely manner.
One of our concerns is that some utility industry executives do not see the value of PES participation, making it difficult for employees to actively contribute. If PES undertakes a major role with regulators, those executives should be more willing to support PES participation as these initiatives would directly affect the utility business.
Some key benefits, to be shared with industry executives, of why participating in IEEE PES activities are important (particularly considering concerns related to aging workforce) are the following:
- participation in standards development helps the company drive and understand key technical issues and protects and enhances its current and future investments in key technologies
- the company benefits by helping to shape industry practices, gains a voice at the technology table, and influences new developments
- allowing members to learn new technical information, anticipate upcoming issues, and gain information and insight from others
- learning new skills and technologies through meeting attendance and committee participation
- conferences and TC meetings are cost-effective workforce training, particularly PES tutorials
- accelerating the identification of best practices, distilled into application guides
- enabling participants to build a network of professional colleagues for fast access, advice, and problem solving
- TC participants gain mentoring and management skills.
In general, to make the benefits of participation in PES obvious, the following is planned to demonstrate and market the value of PES participation to employers:
- court company execs to appreciate and support work
- promote management participation and support and use it to encourage membership
- PES industry leadership is a catalyst for increased membership
- attract more practitioners into PES work.
A very important step for the PES future is to reach out to younger members and their employers about specific opportunities to participate in and contribute to TC work, including:
- recruiting younger members into TC standards and guidelines development
- better marketing and messaging of TCs to younger members by using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
- continue encouraging students to take an active role in Chapter meetings
- creating a visible career growth path within PES.
Considering the volunteering nature of our involvement and our members’ broad knowledge, it is also necessary to share and spread technical work across more PES members.
Our key strength lies in synergies among our members’ technical, business, research, and academic experiences and contributions worldwide. PES is perceived internationally as very strong academically. However, there is room to improve utility industry active involvement and participation. Additional ideas to promote active international participation and raise awareness of PES efforts, resulting in recruiting more international industry participants, are the following:
- Publicize TC output (such as standards and tutorials) at international meetings. Have representatives from TCs present work.
- Hold more TC meetings abroad, and encourage local PES Chapter participation.
- Continue building our Distinguish Lecturer Program by presenting topics relevant to the industry.
- Involve more international participants in standards and other committee work through electronic media.
- Undertake initiatives to ensure that student members continue their PES membership after entering industry.
As our industry is changing, our TCs have realized a need to change as well. The Technical Council and TC leadership have undertaken an initiative to catalog the lists of existing and developing technologies and map the committees’ scope. Using this catalog can help us map the committee to the appropriate technology and identify how our TC structure can serve industry needs for years to come.
Considering the need for training, we need to promote our programs to engage and energize all our members with tutorials, workshops, and mentoring and networking opportunities. Facilitating more tutorials, coaching, and connection programs by partnering with different disciplines and experience levels is a great way to showcase the value of PES to members and executives worldwide.
Our volunteers dedicate significant time and effort to PES. It is crucial to increase the recognition of PES volunteers by acknowledging their contributions personally and to their employers. We have a number of awards and need to find time to recognize our colleagues. In addition, awards programs that publicly acknowledge and thank volunteers for their individual and group contributions, including achievement recognition programs with correspondence to employers and tributes in large group sessions, can make a real difference.
Significant industry trends and changes mean that the power industry, 10–20 years from now, will be very different from what it is today. I firmly believe that, with PES leadership, it will be a better industry, doing a better job of providing a much greater value to customers and stakeholders, and with an even more important role in our society than ever before.
These proposed actions can continue to help increase PES membership that will, in turn, further help our industry. We should be very proud of what PES stands for today and truly excited about what we can accomplish together in the future.