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The World of CIGRE

Sept. 16, 2019
CIGRE’s purpose is to foster engagement and knowledge sharing among power system professionals globally to enable the sustainable provision of electricity for all.

Debating about how the next 100+ years of electric power systems may be much more transformational than the last 100+ years is fascinating. Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and others were extraordinarily transformative in their technological development of DC and AC electricity. Thomas Edison started with a DC "micro-grid" emanating from the Pearl Street Station in New York City. Power systems then evolved to local AC grids with Tesla, et al. Today, we have very large grids with AC and DC, but that is only part of the story.

Interconnections were developed that drove economies of scale and long distance needs, yielding large grid operational structures and extra-to-ultra high-voltage transmission. Centralization and standardization developed. The atom was split, supercritical boilers advanced, pumped-storage flourished, and central station power became a mainstay. Prices dropped significantly, then prices started rising, seeding markets and open transmission access to mitigate.

For years, the complexities of the centralized top-down grid structure called upon higher voltages for greater distances with equipment being pushed to greater sizes, reliability, and lower costs. Extraordinary protection and controls developed as forerunners of self-healing. Then large markets developed via an extensive transmission grid, and complexity ensued.

Today generation, transmission and distribution are blurred, with distribution changing significantly with network attributes and distributed energy resources. Consumers are active and transactional with the grid. Aggregators transcend the grid in varied ways. The grid has more just-in-time resources, is decentralized, and includes big data, blockchain, cybersecurity, and more. And we have returned to the microgrid once again. Today’s complexities are growing exponentially. Climate change and decarbonization add another complex dimension and a call for greater resilience and sustainability.

Evolution Meets Purpose

This evolution fits well with CIGRE’s purpose "to foster engagement and knowledge sharing among power system professionals globally to enable the sustainable provision of electricity for all."

CIGRE was founded in Paris in 1921 when the electric industry envisioned the need for a global organization to complement the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC founded in 1906). Today, CIGRE approaches its second century, evolving with the extraordinary evolution of global power systems.

CIGRE is uniquely positioned as a community of thought leaders, decision-makers, and technology leaders across the world. Power system expertise across the globe offers technology and professional development for those young in their career and for those seasoned. CIGRE knows it is not enough to stay in the rear view mirror. Rather, CIGRE creates a forward-looking thought leadership to better electricity for society.

CIGRE is for power system expertise and is no longer an abbreviation. For many years, since its founding in Paris in 1921, CIGRE was a French abbreviation for International Council on Large Electric Systems with some slight variations.

Today, CIGRE approaches its second century with a new strategy and brand inaugurated in Paris 2018 with end-to-end (E2E) power system expertise. E2E is CIGRE’s scope for the grid, the globe, and all that seek sustainable and affordable electricity. Thousands of volunteers across the globe in 16 Study Committees and over 200 Working Groups are developing technical material on every conceivable subject for power system expertise.

CIGRE also has humanitarian desires to enable sustainable and affordable electricity for all that do not enjoy electricity today. Renewables, microgrids, and battery energy storage systems can create the progress we enjoy in developed countries to assist developing countries and regions. We have partnered with the World Bank in Africa to assist.

Biennially in even years, CIGRE holds its signature global power system event in Paris for thousands of delegates, hundreds of exhibitors, a next-generation network (NGN) showcase, and a women in engineering (WIE) event. Where can you go and benchmark more than 90 countries in one venue with 16 technical threads from which to choose? Many country and international events are also held by CIGRE.

We think sometimes we are best in power system expertise, but then we see what others are doing in the world. What better community provides information on Ireland’s renewables connected at the distribution level, or China’s perfection of ultra-high voltage AC and DC, or South Korea’s best-practice distribution automation, or the complexities of Australia’s energy market, or Brazil’s evolving market, or...?  And the list goes on. is the international website with a vast array of resources for members via e-CIGRE. The signature magazine, Electra, is in digital form today but will advance in June 2020 to a modern digital platform with some freely accessible articles, technical information, and interviews. National Committees also have websites for events and registration. For those in the United States, visit

CIGRE’s E2E global community is a complement to any power system expertise need.

About the Author

Michael Heyeck

Michael Heyeck is the founder of The Grid Group, LLC. He previously served as senior vice president of transmission at American Electric Power. He is president of the CIGRÉ U.S. National Committee and was a member of the Department of Energy Electricity Advisory Committee.

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