CIGRE membership – for both engineers and their employers

John McDonald, SmartGrid Business Development Leader, GE Power, Atlanta explains how CIGRE membership provides value for both engineers and their employers, thereby also benefiting the entire power system.

CIGRE is an international community that shares information to contribute to the betterment of power systems by enhancing the expertise of people within it.  Those within CIGRE become aware of the benefits after their first experience of a conference, working group or task force meeting. This is mainly because CIGRE’s unique environment allows experts from around the world to meet in an unbiased, non-threatening environment.  Members of working groups are often world experts in their own right and the exchange of views and information at that level provides for very interesting discussion and excellent training opportunities for young engineers.

The information received in this manner allows companies involved in the power distribution business to benefit enormously. This is due to learning from others’ mistakes, discovering the use of new products and understanding different solutions to common problems.  The saving in capital and operational expenditure is often large but very difficult to determine.  This is because the solutions applied via the CIGRE process are close to optimal. There is often not a “current” application and a “CIGRE” application which can be compared which will provide a level of saving. As such it is sometimes difficult to explain to management, who may not be engineers, the benefit of attending CIGRE working groups or functions. In order to assist in this regard, I have summarised membership benefits from both engineer and employer perspectives.

Engineer benefits

  1. Members are kept abreast of current technology in electric power through national and international conferences and expositions, and National Committee events.
  2. Opportunities to exchange information with the industry’s foremost experts are provided through participation in a large number of CIGRE events, including National Committee events, Colloquia, Symposia, and the General Session in Paris every two years.
  3. Most CIGRE events include tutorials, so there are many educational opportunities.
  4. CIGRE provides access to information at significantly less cost than commercially offered seminars. CIGRE also works to ensure that the materials presented are objective and without commercialism.
  5. Opportunities to network with women and men in all stages of their careers, who are united by a common interest in the electric power field. Building a network of professional connections is as important to success in any industry as staying on the inside track of happenings in the field. The camaraderie of CIGRE brings with it the opportunity to share your enthusiasm for the profession and to be re-energised by the enthusiasm of others.

Employer benefits

  1. Access to latest information on electric power technology. Employees are kept abreast of the latest developments which, in turn, helps keep the employer in the forefront of the industry.
  2. An opportunity to significantly influence industry reports and brochures that bear on the employer’s business. Through participation of employees in the writing and revising of reports and brochures, the employer can influence the documents affecting its business and be fully informed of upcoming changes before they take effect.
  3. On-going training and education for employees. These days, learning is a life-long activity. Can you imagine designing a relay and protection system in the 21stcentury using 1970 knowledge? An educated workforce is crucial to success today. For the power engineering professional, CIGRE offers training that covers everything from the basics of power engineering to state-of-the-art technologies. CIGRE training and educational programs help employees reach and stay at the top of their craft. Remember, “When a company invests in education, it invests wisely in its future.”
  4. Professional development of employees. Members who volunteer for leadership roles in CIGRE not only gain influence on the course of the industry, they also grow in their ability to organise and lead groups of people. In addition, they can develop public speaking skills and enhanced interpersonal relationship abilities. “Self-actualisation” is the pinnacle of an individual’s professional life and is greatly facilitated by involvement in CIGRE.
  5. Employees gain increased sense of value. By encouraging its staff to be active in professional organisation activities and to attend conferences and meetings, an employer shows employees that they and their profession are valued. The result is a workforce stimulated by interaction with peers in the profession … a workforce that gains industry recognition for its professional accomplishments and is comprised of people who their employer cares about them.

CIGRE is in a unique position where in any Study Committee gathering you may find a solution to any problem related to a topic within the Study Committee scope. If there is no solution to the particular problem, it is likely others will have a similar issue and a working group can be formed to resolve the problem.

When members leverage the benefits of CIGRE to the benefit of their companies, they also benefit the power system community as a whole.

Where CIGRE is unsurpassed

John McDonald, SmartGrid Business Development Leader, GE Power, Atlanta and IEEE Life Fellow shares his personal perspective

I have been actively involved in the IEEE and the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) for 46 years, with many leadership positions and awards. It’s a very valuable organisation. However, CIGRE provides me three benefits I do not receive from IEEE. I believe that to be a “complete engineer” you must actively participate in both IEEE and CIGRE.

Three member benefits unique to CIGRE are:

  1. Technology with global perspective – CIGRE’s technological understanding and expertise spans the globe like no other organisation and this is critical as our world gets ‘smaller’. As engineers, we must understand global differences in technology, industry standards and business cases if we are to keep pace with and successfully address the ever evolving challenges of the power system.
  2. Executive networking – no other technical organisation has as many company CEOs and other top executives actively involved as CIGRE. Members constantly enjoy opportunities to meet and establish close relationships with key industry executives. A good example is Michel Augonnet, who was second in command at Alstom Grid and President, French National Committee of CIGRE, when I first met him. He is now the CIGRE Treasurer.
  3. Practical work – CIGRE work results are practical in nature. They address and help solve the practical problems electric utilities and manufacturers encounter. They are not academic transactions papers from researchers.

In my view these three benefits alone are justification enough for every power system professional to get involved. CIGRE membership, relative to membership of other valuable organisations such as IEEE in the USA and other learned institutions like IET and SAIEE in other countries, is complimentary, providing a pathway to becoming a “complete engineer”.

CIGRE membership – how does the young professional fit in?

Mandy Olson, who leads the USNC NGN group explains

Acknowledging that the future leaders of the power system are our young professionals, CIGRE has and continues to establish Next Generation Network (NGN) groups around the world. These groups are formed specifically to help young professionals on a range of fronts.

Being a member of the CIGRE Next Generation Network (NGN) has different benefits for different people. Most notably, and one that everyone seems to agree on, is the benefit of networking and expanding your professional reach, while solidifying a technical foundation in an area of personal interest. By participating in working groups, even as a corresponding member, our early professionals get to experience the power industry from a global perspective. This means early professionals take both experience and knowledge transfer from their working groups and directly apply it to projects they work on daily, which has the potential to accelerate advancements in the power industry.

The CIGRE NGN also creates an expansive network of early professionals across the globe by providing opportunities to become involved with many events and conferences. This collaboration allows NGN members to meet with professionals from various backgrounds and experiences, giving them a broader insight into not only technical, but business challenges as well.

In 2016, CIGRE UK NGN group launched the Young Member showcase. This showcase included NGN members of CIGRE from across the globe who submitted presentations for an opportunity to present in a study committee session at the 2016 Paris Session. The selected presentations went over so well that, in the end, some of the NGN members were approached and welcomed to positions on current working groups.

Above all, NGN members benefit by being around experts, learning, contributing, and networking. Access to e-CIGRE certainly helps with this, and through events, conferences, and meetings our group continues to expand its reach and our members continue to thrive.

CIGRE’s global earthquake experience provides the answer

David Roop, Director – Electric Transmission Operations & Reliability, Power Delivery Group, Dominion Energy explains how CIGRE membership provided a direct route to solving a challenging and unusual problem.

“In 2011 a 5.8 Magnitude earthquake struck the east coast of the United States, disrupting power to one of our nuclear power stations. Before we could safely and successfully restart our facility we had to ensure we understood and corrected all possible failure modes. The trouble was that this was the first recorded earthquake that had impacted our service area in our hundred year history.

To start we researched the frequency of the shock and aftershocks, making comparisons with other U.S experiences. We found that our experience was not the same as on the west coast of the U.S. due to rock and soil formation. However, there were similarities with the shock frequency seen in New Zealand and Japan. We reached out to our CIGRE colleagues in those countries to see if we could meet to learn from their experiences.

As luck would have it there was a Colloquium the next month scheduled in Japan, so we arranged to meet at this event to go over our findings and to get their advice on what else we should consider. At a subsequent meeting in Kyoto, Japan we developed a comprehensive list of items we should consider and conveyed them to our workforce back home. This checklist proved invaluable – some areas we thought would be okay were now reviewed and weaknesses were indeed discovered and corrected. This international collaboration enabled us to repair and return to service our facility successfully, without any additional outages occurring from unknown defects.”

CIGRE industry data underpins major system reliability improvement

David Roop, Director – Electric Transmission Operations & Reliability, Power Delivery Group, Dominion Energy explains how CIGRE membership resulted in improved customer reliability and reduced cost.

“About fifteen years ago we experienced increasing mechanism failures in our transmission circuit breakers. To find out why and how best to solve this problem we initially looked at peers in the U.S market using similar equipment with a comparable performance history. That led to a detailed review of our company’s maintenance policies for power circuit breakers and we discovered a training concern – many of our maintenance employees gained experience only from senior team members and a global maintenance process across our company was not in place. We developed extensive training opportunities for our maintenance employees, establishing stronger skills for each individual.  Despite this and, even after we increased our maintenance budget, we continued to experience a higher than expected mechanism failure rate.

That’s when we realised we had to look wider and the best way to that was to turn to CIGRE. One CIGRE Technical Brochure revealed significant performance differences between varying mechanism types and identified that the worst performing mechanism type worldwide was actually the type we had been using! We changed our specifications and began a replacement of all transmission circuit breakers on our system with mechanisms that were performing better, based on the CIGRE data. Today all our transmission circuit breakers, over 450 units, have been replaced accordingly. Since then we have experienced just one single mechanism failure.”