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2020 IEEE PES T&D: Future of Energy in the Spotlight

Feb. 20, 2020
ComEd and the IEEE Power and Energy Society will co-host the Chicago conference focused on innovation.

More than 14,000 energy industry professionals from around the world will convene in Chicago to learn about “Electrifying the Future” at the 2020 IEEE PES T&D Conference and Exposition. The event, co-hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society (PES) and ComEd, will be April 20-23 at the McCormick Place Convention Center in the Windy City.

At the biennial conference, the attendees will explore new and emerging clean energy technologies and discover innovation at the Smart Cities Pavilion. In keeping with the theme, IEEE PES will offer collegiate “Engineer Your Success” workshops, technical tours and networking events as well as the IEEE PES Power Challenge, which pairs high school students with professional mentors and showcases their projects in a special poster session.

Shay Bahramirad, vice president of engineering and smart grid for ComEd and IEEE PES T&D conference chair, describes the initiative to reach out to the energy industry workforce of tomorrow as well as what attendees can expect to learn at the event:

Q: Discuss how IEEE PES is working with local high schools on a program for underserved students to create awareness about opportunities in the industry.

A: The technologies of tomorrow need a whole generation of engineering talent to make them real. IEEE PES has partnered with ComEd to provide a long-term, team-oriented program that helps students produce innovative, well-researched projects that provide a solution to an energy-related issue. These students will be presenting these projects at the IEEE PES T&D Conference in April. Students come from underserved communities within ComEd’s service territory, and the goal of this program is to help show them how exciting and meaningful STEM education and STEM careers can be.

Q: How will this program engage and prepare the workforce of the future? 

A: Exposing young people to the technology being leveraged within their communities while simultaneously equipping them with the communication and leadership skills necessary to succeed in the energy industry is incredibly beneficial to the industry’s workforce in the long term. This early STEM exposure isn’t just about doing a single cool project; it also instills a passion for the subjects and processes they’re tackling, increasing the likelihood that they’ll pursue STEM careers. This is especially important when we consider how the entire workforce needs to be equipped with a new infusion of skills to meet the challenges of the future.

Q: What are your thoughts on the skilled worker shortage, and what challenges do you think the industry will face in the future? 

A: I think that the biggest challenge the industry is facing is cross-skilling. Much of the emerging technology under development and deployment within the energy industry, most notably microgrids and the distributed energy resources, will require a level of interface between electrical engineers and energy consumers that we haven’t encountered before. The engineer of the future must be equipped with technical skills, from data analytics to a deep grasp of power systems, to succeed and the skills to communicate these technologies effectively. All of this requires an enormous amount of intellectual curiosity to always want to know what comes next.

Q: How do you feel about IEEE PES T&D making a difference with the student program and scholarships? 

A: I am very proud of the work both IEEE PES and ComEd are doing to launch this program and am excited to see the projects develop throughout this coming year. This is a fantastic opportunity for the youth of our communities, and I can’t wait to see what the students come up with. We in the energy industry are facing serious challenges from the climate crisis to cyber-security, but the quality of students that we see here makes me confident that the future is bright.

Q: You are expecting 150 students to participate in this program, and you’re also planning on offering a scholarship. Can you talk about how the program will unfold during the conference, and what benefits the students will receive from attending the event? 

A: Students will participate in a Poster Presentation on April 23 at the IEEE PES T&D Conference, and a panel of judges will review the research each team conducted. Between IEEE PES and ComEd, the top five winning teams will be receiving scholarship funds, not to mention the long-lasting learning benefits of participation in a program like this and the networking opportunities of meeting so many utility professionals at ComEd and across the country.

Q: What sets IEEE PES T&D 2020 apart from other shows in the industry? 

A: IEEE PES T&D 2020 is not only the industry’s signature show; it’s by far the most comprehensive, with the industry’s top executives, engineers, thinkers, and leaders in attendance, along with the latest products and innovations. In terms of pricing, content, and value, IEEE PES T&D Conference and Exposition is truly a “can’t miss” event.

Q: How will the conference be different than in prior years? For example, do you have a central theme for the event? 

A: In so many ways. For the first time, we will be holding an executive summit, bringing together leaders from the policy world and industry to discuss the most challenging questions, offering valuable opportunities to form crucial collaborations to produce innovative solutions. In addition, the conference will feature brand new additions to the exhibition floor, such as the Smart Cities Pavilion and the Technical Teams Workshop. There will also be an unprecedented emphasis on communication, with a Media Pavilion designed to provide attendees facetime with industry editors and content writers.

Q: Describe the technical tours and discuss what attendees will experience during the eight different stops. Why did you select these particular locations? 

A: The technical tours will give participants the opportunity to tour exciting, offsite locations to learn more about what’s going on in the real world of the energy industry. Our goal was to produce opportunities that were as diverse as the industry that attends this conference. Tours will include everything from cutting-edge labs to seeing an innovative art exhibit about how future cities will reduce carbon footprints.

Q: What can attendees expect to see in the Smart Cities Pavilion? Why did you make this a part of the 2020 event, and how will it be set up on the show floor? 

A: At the Smart Cities Pavilion, attendees can explore ongoing collaborations between cities and utilities to deploy smart technology like electric vehicle infrastructure. Cities are facing a number of challenges when it comes to energy efficiency, transportation, and the effects of climate change. We’re incredibly interested in the partnerships that utilities are forming with these cities to improve the lives of community members and to solve some of these challenges. The Smart Cities Pavilion will showcase these developments with booths arranged to by application, such as energy, mobility, and food and agriculture.

Q: Talk about the importance of attending the event for power industry professionals. What are some of the top reasons they should consider attending? 

A: Power industry professionals should absolutely consider attending this event for the immersive exhibition experiences, the global reach, with 85 countries represented, and the opportunity for networking and forming new business partnerships with industry leaders.

Q: Discuss the opportunities for networking during the event. How can they help young professionals just starting out in the industry as well as those with years of experience?

A: The conference is designed for networking at every level. Young professionals just starting out will have the opportunity to interface directly with industry publications at the Media Pavilion, to ask industry leaders direct questions at panel events, and to discuss emerging tech with engineers on the exhibition floor. Women in Power will be holding events to help some of the most sophisticated thinkers and doers in the field develop the connections they need to excel. Those with years of experience who are leaders in the field are presented with a new opportunity this year as well. An inaugural Executive Summit is being held this year, giving industry leaders a chance to discuss the biggest issues facing the energy industry on the first night of the conference.

Q: How many attendees are you expecting for the IEEE PES T&D 2020 conference? Talk about the Utility Saver Pricing and how it helps utilities to send more employees to the event. 

A: We’re expecting over 14,000 industry professionals to attend the 2020 conference, and the Utility Saver Pricing option is a new opportunity we’re providing to help utilities save money. Utility companies can purchase a special group package for $1,000. Keep in mind that IEEE members get deals on conference packages as well.

Q: What can attendees expect to learn during the event? 

A: Attendees can expect to learn about all the latest trends, technologies, business models and innovative ideas currently sweeping the energy industry through numerous panels and speaking events and exhibits. In a conference this big, everybody might learn something different, but we can all learn something important.

Note: Visit the Web site at to register, view the full conference schedule, see a list of exhibitors and learn more about the event. 

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