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Make a Bigger Difference by Engaging with CIGRE

As the boundaries between transmission and distribution begin to blur and as we see energy customers increasingly engage as prosumers to shake the foundation of the industry, this shift by CIGRE couldn’t come at a better time.

This August, I had the opportunity to participate in the CIGRE meeting held every other year in Paris. This event was the highest attended event in its 97-year history. At the opening session, we learned that more than 4000 experts from 72 countries participated in 232 working groups. The working groups turned out 41 technical brochures last year. CIGRE is also creating many new working groups as we move to integrate all aspects of power delivery. Work is underway to determine how we connect distributed energy resources and storage to the grid. As the boundaries between transmission and distribution begin to blur and as we see energy customers increasingly engage as prosumers to shake the foundation of the industry, this shift by CIGRE couldn’t come at a better time.

CIGRE is setting its targets even higher. At the opening ceremony, President Rob Stephens shared that CIGRE is expanding its focus and invited more than 100 CEOs to Paris from all over the world to see how CIGRE might work more collaboratively with industry and extend its reach. I can’t wait to hear back from Rob on the progress of the discussions.

Rob was followed by keynote Speaker Audrey Zibelman, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator handling both electricity and gas. Zibelman shared that the Australian energy market, serving 26 million people, is being disrupted by new entrants coming into the industry. Australia is presently replacing coal with hydro and distributed resources. And one in four Australian homes already have solar roofs. Zibelman sees us moving toward a more distributed architecture to handle both data and devices. She also suggests we move from a vendor-based mind set to move in lock step with our “partners” so we can adapt faster. Audrey concluded by stating that today is “one of the best times ever to be in the power industry, challenging us to provide opportunities to bring the best and the brightest into the industry.”

Monday, our United States National Committee hosted a formal cocktail reception for U.S. members at the Pavilion Gabriel. This gave us the chance to meet with outgoing USNC Mike Heyeck, incoming president Dave Rupp and Technical Activities Director John McDonald. But this event also gave us the opportunity to act as social lubricant to connect newcomers including Mike Putt, recently announced as Director of Smart Grid at Florida Power & Light and my buddy, Vince Westfallen, who has worked a large portion of his career in planning at Commonwealth Edison. My friend, Stewart Ramsay with Vanry and Associates is always in attendance and he is a great thought leader I like to share. Of course representatives from consulting firms Burns & McDonnell, Power Engineering and Power Delivery Consultants were in attendance. As were representatives from EPRI. What a great evening with great conversations.

National Committees

CIGRE National Committees also host events addressing specialty topics. In fact, a strong contingent from Dominion Energy was in attendance including Dave Roop, Matt Gardner, Mark McVey and Mike Lamb. From my perspective, Dominion Energy is probably the highest functioning T&D utility in North America. One reason for their attendance in force in Paris is that Dominion Energy was the utility host for the USNC Grid of the Future symposium that was held Oct. 28-31 in Reston, Virginia.

Grid of the Future Symposium

So what did first-timers find when they came to the Grid of the Future Symposium? Foremost, they learned firsthand about CIGRE. And second, they had the opportunity to network with peers in generation, transmission, distribution, markets, and smart grid. They also found tutorials and workshops to allow them to take a deeper dive. The USNC also promoted young professionals to join the Next Generation Network where they could find plenty of sponsors to connect them with others. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) stepped in to co-sponsor this event.

Our Dominion Energy utility hosts shared how GIS and GIL will enable us to save space, increase reliability, improve resiliency and reduce maintenance, which was followed by a companion tour of Dominion’s Brambleton Substation. And Dominion added an encore tour of the Mosby Substation static VAR compensator (SVC).

Looking back, I am so thrilled that my friend and mentor Jim Poffenberger with Preformed Line Products took the time to introduce me to the ways of CIGRE when I attended my first event in Paris back in the early ‘80s. Here in 2018, I tried to play it forward, connecting Mike Putt and Vince Westfallen as best I could. Mike Putt took it a step further, volunteering to moderate a session at the Grid of the Future symposium.

If you are looking to get engaged in CIGRE, a great way to start is to attend a National Committee-supported event or symposium. Here in North America, both Canada and the United States host events each year.

I encourage you to engage at one of the many levels CIGRE makes available to you—whether it is in Paris on a technical committee or as an exhibitor or at National Committee events.

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