PES on Solid Ground
The elections of 2011 are over, and the new IEEE Power & Energy (PES) leadership is in place. At the beginning of each new two-year cycle, it is time to reflect on accomplishments, things that have been done right (or wrong), and goals for the times ahead. As a former PES treasurer, I value the learning time that the two years as president-elect will afford me. It would be good to offer a similar learning curve to the incoming PES treasurers to learn how nonprofit organizations function and how their financial operations are planned, structured, and governed.
The president-elect is responsible for chairing the PES Long-Range Planning (LRP) Committee. Among the initiatives discussed within the committee, some are strategic (long term) while others focus on shorter-term goals. The ensuing Governing Board meetings present an opportunity to prioritize and act on those initiatives. Some of the priorities are discussed in the following text.
In the past several years, PES has experienced substantial membership growth. That has opened opportunities for many new activities and often necessitated finding new revenue sources to finance them and ways to allocate those activities within all ten IEEE Regions. The growth of PES membership, which now stands at over 28,000, may result in new PES Chapters and often requires the revitalization of Chapters that have become less active over the years. Those processes require additional volunteers. The energy and drive of the volunteer members, especially those of the younger generation, are vital ingredients for future growth and success. The successful recruiting of volunteers also presents a great opportunity for PES to serve as the venue for leadership opportunities where members can network, innovate, motivate, and lead. For many of our members, IEEE Societies have been the source of leadership training and opportunities. We should enhance such opportunities for volunteers and continue to strengthen and grow our Chapters and membership.
The strategy of PES regarding Chapters involves active recruitment of volunteers and increased technical activities for their members as well as for potential members (through lectures, workshops, conferences, and social and professional events). Wherever convenient, those activities may be conducted in collaboration with other related IEEE Societies to increase the quality and quantity of the programs. This is especially important in locations where the IEEE presence is not yet well established and the visibility of the Societies needs to be enhanced. Among the proposed activities are PES conferences and symposia hosted by the Chapters, as well as presentations through the PES Distinguished Lecturer Program. The high cost of such programs, especially when targeting the most remote and neediest Chapters, requires that they be carefully planned and evaluated for effectiveness. For example, when a conference is attended by one or more Distinguished Lecturer, multiple lectures may be offered for the benefit of the local Chapters. That can save considerably on travel costs while providing great benefits for the Chapters.
The meetings of Chapter representatives are also very useful in disseminating information about the programmatic opportunities for Chapters, PES, and IEEE in general. The effectiveness of such meetings should be carefully monitored, especially when they are made in conjunction with conferences in the region. The growth and well being of the Chapters, especially in Regions 8–10, will critically depend on how well and how cost effective are such Chapter programs and activities organized and distributed across the region.
It has been known for some time that the demographics of PES membership (age, gender, geographical location) leave a lot to be desired. The continuing rapid growth of our membership in recent years offers opportunities to change those demographics by promoting programs for target groups. In the past several years, PES has started a Graduates Of the Last Decade (GOLD) program for young engineers as well as a Women in Engineering (WIE) program to offer women engineers an opportunity to meet among themselves and with other members and discuss their careers, experiences, and other issues of interest. These programs are also a venue to seek or offer mentorship to younger members. The addition of the recent scholarship initiative targets undergraduate students by offering scholarships and internships with power and energy companies to stimulate their interest in those fields.
PES intends to continue developing new programs while evolving and refining the existing ones and customize them to the needs and wishes of the members in different geographic regions. An important component of such programs are provisions for social and professional networking, already existing through Career program, which is now being adapted for members in different regions. As the world is rapidly changing through innovative social networking programs (Facebook now claims to have over 800 million members!), PES should learn how to serve as a go-to place where members may exchange experiences, look for jobs, seek answers to questions related to their daily jobs or regional events of professional interest, or simply chat. We have much to learn about how such programs should be optimally designed and implemented, but their wide use would greatly enhance a truly global reach of IEEE in general and PES in particular.
Conferences and Publications
The success of the membership value initiatives depends on the ability to continue and expand the sources of income that the Society provides. Traditionally, the PES budget has benefited from large conferences (such as the Transmission & Distribution Conference and Exhibition) that attract thousands of attendees. They remain the backbone of our program and will continue to be so in the future. Our programmatic successes in offering new conferences worldwide will also depend on our ability to attract the attention of the industry professionals who represent the core of our membership. The importance of this activity cannot be overemphasized. A number of successful Innovative Smart Grid Technology (ISGT) conferences were organized in the past few years across the world—it is an opportunity (and challenge) to continue to satisfy the members’ interest in offering such events while maintaining their uniform quality and solid attendance and avoiding competing with other PES conferences.
Just as important is the revenue generated by our publications, which have been recently enhanced by the addition of IEEE Transactions on Sustainability and IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid. Both of these new publications were successful in their initial offering as a result of good quality control of the inaugural papers and a carefully implemented marketing strategy. To accomplish the ambitious goal of generating additional revenue for the growing membership and programs to support it, we will also need new sources of revenue and more successes. Those goals will require us to modernize the way we are doing business by getting involved in various new activities such as e-commerce (already ongoing) and educational activities (also already very active).
At the beginning of this new term for PES leadership, our membership is growing, our finances are solid, and our plans are ambitious. At the same time, the economic situation in the world is offering more uncertainty than at any point in the recent past (except for 2008). To protect, preserve, and grow the momentum of our development and quality of our benefits and services, we will need to continue to rely on a well-trained professional PES staff that has been instrumental in introducing and maintaining the ongoing programs, forward-looking volunteer leadership to formulate and inaugurate many new activities, and a widely disseminated network of enthusiastic volunteers worldwide to spread the benefits and services of PES across the globe.