Leader’s Corner | IEEE Power & Energy Magazine
IEEE Power & Energy Society

Leader’s Corner

Every so often, people, families, and companies look to evaluate their accomplishments, where they stand, and where they are going. The last part is strategic thinking, which I wrote about in an earlier column.
That was at the time when we started the process in the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) and endeavored to develop a vision and strategy, as well as an implementation plan, for the Society in the coming years. The new plan, which addresses many aspects of PES activities, was approved at the PES Governing Board’s January Meeting, and it will represent the core resource in formulating the new activities and shaping our future directions. Part of the document provides a wide-sweeping overview of PES membership, Chapters, and related activities from the past five years, and I will liberally borrow from that text to provide information to you about our members while the strategic plan is on its path to becoming a public document.

PES membership reached an all-time record of 31,400 members at the end of 2013. There were about 190 Chapters in 2007, and we are now approaching 230. There is a growing trend in creating Student Branch Chapters, and the interest of student members in PES (with the likelihood of joining the Society upon graduation) has greatly increased. PES has always maintained strong support for student participation in its various conferences (many enjoy sponsored student participation, which is facilitated by the Power Engineering Education Committee). The growth and value of membership and support for Chapter activities continues to be one of the dominant concerns of PES leadership. Also, 39 new Chapters have been created since 2007, many in Region 8. The growth is attributed to rebranding of the Society to be more inclusive of professionals involved in the area of focus—increased worldwide interest in energy and new energy technologies such as renewable energy, smart grid, and electric vehicles—as well as changing workforce demographics.

Our current membership is the largest the Society has ever reached; it increased rapidly from 2007 to 2010 and remains steady to this day. It should be mentioned that the previous peak of membership, reached in the early 1990s, was about 25,000 members. The subsequent decade of membership decline reached a minimum of slightly over 20,000 members in 2005, followed by the rapid growth we are enjoying today. Looking forward, the potential for membership growth is great in Regions 8–10, and moderate growth is possible in Regions 1–7, but this should be accompanied by the appropriate development of value-added membership services and the globalization of IEEE culture for PES to become truly global.

Our revenue-generating activities have increased by more than 60% over the last six years, exceeding US$17 million in 2012. The largest contributors to revenue are conferences and publications. PES has continued to grow during one of the largest economic downturns in modern history. Part of it is due to the growing awareness of the importance of energy issues and the need to continue to transform and modernize power systems globally. At the present time, PES is sponsoring some 40 conferences around the world annually. Three new publications, IEEE Transactions on Smart GridIEEE Transactions on Sustainable Energy, and IEEE Electrification Magazine, have been successfully launched. The annual budgets are still following a two-year cycle due, in large part, to the nonuniform revenue from conferences such as the Transmission & Distribution (T&D) Conference, which is biennial. PES annual reserves contributions have grown to US$1.3 million, and our current reserves exceed US$11 million. The figures represent 85% of the Society’s yearly average expenses, and our reserves are in considerable excess of the IEEE requirement of 50%.

figure 1. PES membership by age.

figure 1. PES membership by age.

Another interesting perspective is provided by an overview of the age demographics of our membership (see Figure 1). The dominant groups are the members in mature stages of their careers (in the sixth and seventh decade of life). While this follows the overall demographic trends in the industry, the beginning of growth of young membership (in the third decade of life and freshly out of college) is encouraging and should be nurtured in our future activities. The nonuniform age distribution of membership is not just a PES problem—it is an industry-wide phenomenon, which has been acknowledged and will need to be addressed by PES’s many planned activities in the future. For example, the growth of younger membership offers an opportunity for developing a variety of activities based on social networking and other communication technologies that have gained popularity in the past decade but have not been extensively used by older generations of engineers. The accuracy of the reported numbers is somewhat affected by the fact that IEEE applications for membership no longer require birth dates, which has created a relatively large number of members with unreported age (close to 20%).

The growing segment of PES membership is Young Professionals, the program formerly known as Graduates of the Last Decade, or GOLD. Young Professionals hold the future of PES. As power and energy sector employers begin to hire the graduates of our PES Scholarship Plus program, a new base of PES members will be added to the Society. That will be accompanied by facilitating development of the mentor program for young professionals, with its goal of getting them involved in PES technical activities.

With a rich assortment of technical and coordinating committees with solid and long-standing reputations, they will have many options and opportunities to get involved, from organizing events at some of the 40 conferences that PES organizes annually around the world, to writing technical reports and guides about the subjects of great practical relevance, or developing some of the standards (PES has developed over 500 standards for IEEE and continues to contribute a lion’s share of the new developments) that are on the “fast track” due to urgent industry needs. An example is IEEE C37.244 Guide for Phasor Data Concentrator Requirements, which was initiated in May 2011 with balloting beginning in April 2012. Young members will also partake in a dedicated Web site to inform, facilitate, and coordinate their many opportunities and activities and will be invited to attend custom paper preparation forums at some PES conferences.

Women in Power (WIP) is PES’s equivalent of the IEEE Women in Engineering program. Women currently account for approximately 6% of PES members. They have been elected to top PES leadership positions, serving as treasurer in 1994–1997 (Virginia Sulzberger); as president in 2008–2009 (Wanda Reder) and 2012–2013 (Noel Schulz); and as Division VII director in 2002–2003 (Virginia Sulzberger), in 2013 (Cheri Warren), and in 2014 (Wanda Reder). Women have also been serving as vice president of Chapters (Meliha Selak, 2009–2013) and several region representatives as well as PES secretary and treasurer. While PES benefits from solid participation of women in the leadership activities, women are still very much underrepresented in our general membership.

WIP events are often organized at PES conferences. These events are almost always well attended, by both genders, and sometimes provide memorable moments and inspiration to the participants. Cheri Warren recalls one of those events: “I had the extreme honor of visiting Abu Dhabi with Meliha (Selak) and the PES Board of Directors. Meliha took it upon herself to arrange a day with the women engineers of Abu Dhabi. Two hundred women came to hear the PES women leaders (Wanda Reder, Meliha Selak, Noel Shultz, and myself) speak about our life stories. It was a magical day that touched the lives of many.”

In addition to social events, WIP will also develop a mentorship program to assist participants in career building, present features on women professionals in the PES eNews Updates, and establish a new award to reward and acknowledge the success of women at the highest level in PES.

One of the initiatives PES started a few years ago, PES Scholarship Plus, is designed as a public imperative to promote higher education in power and energy engineering and the wider participation of younger members in the industry. The popularity and growth of the number of applications, final number of applicants, and PES Scholars indicates that fund-raising efforts should continue to provide a pipeline for future power engineers with strong PES and industrial support. In 2011, US$1.4 million was raised in support of the Scholarship Plus initiative, and in 2012 US$1.9 million was raised.

Feedback on the program can be found in a note from a scholar from New Mexico State University (NMSU) who participated in all three years of the program and secured a job before graduation: “Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this program. Not only has it helped me fund my education and change my path from the life I lived prior, it opened up so many career paths. This past week I signed an offer from ERCOT in Taylor, Texas, contingent upon my graduation from NMSU. I found out about this job opening and applied for it through the PES career notifications. I seriously cannot say thank you enough for all your hard work and help because I could not have done this without your support.”

PES member age demographics in large reflect those in our industry—a considerable number of power engineers are past or nearing retirement age. PES member surveys also indicate that a number of members, who have not attained Life Member status in IEEE and PES, cite retirement or loss of employer support as a reason for ending PES membership or otherwise becoming less engaged and active in the Society. This subset of our members—those within their last ten years of their professional career or retired—have sometimes been referred to as platinum members, a natural analog to Young Professional members. These members are typically 55 years or older and have the experience, expertise, and perhaps time to continue making valuable contributions to the PES and the profession, even after retirement. If PES provides benefits and services targeted toward these platinum members, the positive effects can be twofold: retention as well as the utilization of this seasoned volunteer base to provide mentorship and leadership to PES units and members.

PES has an Affiliate membership grade available to nonengineers in the power and energy sector. Affiliate members are not IEEE Members and therefore do not pay full IEEE dues. Currently we have 325 PES affiliates, or just over 1% of the Society total. The number of potential members in this grade however, is huge. For example, the biennial T&D Conference (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year) attracts a large number of potential affiliates. Though affiliates can have backgrounds ranging from business development, management, marketing, and policy, one large subgroup is trades and craftspeople. The linemen, power system operators, electricians, and technicians that make up this group have technical interests similar to most PES members. However, the current PES value proposition may not fully align with their needs. Still, it is plausible that PES products and services can be easily modified or repackaged to provide true value to trades and craftspeople. They may also be interested in our fast growing and increasingly diversified portfolio of educational programs, some of which (Plain Talk) are targeting non­engineering professionals and have enjoyed considerable success and acclaim since their inception several years ago.

Another interesting fact is that our Society shares a substantial number of members with other IEEE Societies (see Table 1). Those entities that share the largest number of members with PES are referred to as sister Societies. In the past five years, relationships with sister Societies have become more intense, and PES leadership now regularly meets with the leadership of our sister Societies. Issues of joint interest, among others, are coordination of dates and locations of our conferences; joint launching of, and participation in, new journals; standards development; and various other joint initiatives.

table 1. PES joint Society membership.
IEEE Entity Number of Members
IEEE Industry Applications Society 3,992
IEEE Power Electronics Society 2,070
IEEE Industrial Electronics Society 1,195
IEEE Communications Society 1,145
IEEE Computer Society 1,044
IEEE Standards Association 2,347

This class of joint members is yet another untapped potential for PES. It increases our exposure to a variety of technical fields that would not normally be considered to be within PES domain and opens opportunities for collaborative initiatives that may start a new chapter in the history of
IEEE—the era of intense cross-disciplinary collaboration and technical and intellectual diversity.

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