This will be my last article in the P&E Newsletter as Division VII Director. I wanted to first thank all of you for your support and your own efforts since I have been involved with PES. During my 4 years as Treasurer, 6 years as President-Elect/President/Past President, and my current role as Division VII Director, PES has accomplished a lot. And it would not have happened without the dedication of PES volunteers like you. I take a lot of pride in seeing PES membership grow from 22,000 to 37,000 during the years I’ve been involved with PES leadership, and during those same years, the PES Reserves (think of it as the PES savings account) grow from about $2 Million to nearly $19 Million. We must be doing something right! This would not have happened without the selfless actions of all of us working together for the greater good of PES.
The rest of this article is devoted to sharing what’s happening within PES and IEEE that could impact PES and our attempts to continue to grow our membership, maintain our financial health, and provide increased member value to all of you.
Search for a New IEEE Executive Director
As many of you may have already heard by now, the current Executive Director of IEEE, Jim Prendergast, has announced his intent to retire in early 2018. The search for his replacement has already begun, and I’m honored to be part of that Search Committee. We have selected a firm that specializes in helping organizations like IEEE in such searches, and the IEEE Board of Directors approved the selection at its February 2017 meeting. We have since begun the process of identifying and vetting candidates for the position. Qualified candidates from within IEEE’s volunteer and staff network will be considered in addition to candidates from outside of the IEEE. This is a very important effort and will help to chart the course of IEEE over the next 5-10 years. IEEE is not a typical corporate model, since the volunteers normally provide the strategic direction and oversight, and the IEEE staff provides execution and support. This requires a person with exceptional interpersonal skills to keep the whole process running smoothly. The interview and selection process will continue through the summer as we narrow the field of candidates. We will hopefully be able to announce Jim’s successor early in the Fall of this year.
Election Process Reforms
During 2016, all PES members received several communications from PES and IEEE sources on the proposed Constitutional Amendments. Some from PES were very strongly worded in opposition to the amendments, and others from IEEE sources were strongly in support of the Amendments. This was not a healthy situation, and will hopefully not be repeated. However, there is currently an effort underway to change the IEEE Bylaws regarding election processes and communications. Some I believe are a big step in the right direction. However, other proposed changes have the potential to silence the voice of societies, sections, and other IEEE OU’s during certain parts of the election cycle. Every OU should be able to communicate openly and honestly with its members at any time and on any issue that impacts them. To restrict that right to open and honest communications at any point is an extremely dangerous precedent and not in the interest of a healthy, open and honest debate on issues that govern IEEE or its OUs.
Financial Health of IEEE and PES
As noted earlier, PES has done extremely well in increasing our financial reserves due to our extremely successful conferences, publications and education programs. The PES Governing Board is now addressing the challenge of how to use these reserves to create additional value for our members around the world and to help sustain our advances into future years. Hopefully you will see the fruits of these efforts in coming years.
IEEE on the other hand has endured 4 or 5 years of “deficit budgets” (think of this as a budget showing a net loss at year end), due to a large number of “system” replacements that have been going on through those years. During those years, the IEEE Board of Directors authorized spending up to 4.5% from IEEE Reserves to help to balance the budget. Those programs are quickly coming to an end, and hopefully IEEE will be back on track to create positive cash flows annually without tapping into reserves to balance the budgets. However, it should be noted that actual performance during some of those years was better than the budget, and actually net positive. While the forecast is for positive financial cash flows in the future, IEEE is in no position to rest on its laurels. Growing membership is a continuing struggle and requires constant innovation to find new ways to attract and retain members. IEEE faces increasing competition from other publishers and we must continually strive to be the best. Conferences face similar challenges.
IEEE and PES both recognize that staying connected with industry is vital to our future. PES seems to have lost some of that connection over the years, especially with utilities. And outside of North America, we do not seem to attract a significant number of utility members. Both of these need to change, and both IEEE and PES are developing new initiatives to make that happen.
PES has activities in process on several fronts to increase its outreach and visibility to industries and utilities, including:
- The establishment of an Executive Advisory Council composed of electric industry senior executives. The chief goal of this group would be to provide strategic support to PES leadership by helping identify benefits that PES can provide to members, as well as the best ways to communicate those benefits. Initiatives could also include letters to the editors of targeted media, the publishing of opinion pieces in target newspapers and magazines, contributing articles to impactful magazines, and identifying subject matter experts for commentary on industry trends and developments.
- An initiative to communicate recent standards updates to the power and energy industries. These could be presented at major PES events, but also in regions or companies around the world where the message would help advertise the work of PES and attract members. The current standard most in demand is 1547 – Standard for Connecting Distributed Resources, but other topics in demand include Surge Protection, Lightning Stroke Shielding, Gas-Insulated Substations and Transmission Lines, et al.
- Educate PES Chapters on how to engage local industries in their events. This could include direct invitations to industry non-members, engaging industry experts as speakers, and meeting with local industries to see what topics they would like to see presented at local chapter meetings.
- Investigating corporate memberships or discounts. Corporate memberships could allow a company to pay a lump sum to IEEE/PES which would allow them to roster a given number of members depending on the fees paid. It could also allow a company to register a specified quantity of members for a PES conference or meeting at a discount from the individual registration amount.
On the IEEE side, an Industry Outreach Ad Hoc Committee has been working for over two years and will form an “Industry Advisory Board” (IAB) during 2017. In 2016, members of the group and the IEEE Board of Directors met with over 270 leaders from 70+ countries from all over the world, including six countries in Asia, plus the UK, Uruguay, South Africa, Israel, Canada and the US. The IAB membership will be expanded from the current IEEE and staff to include members from industry served by IEEE, and possibly even members from groups whose business is similar to IEEE’s. One of the IAB’s primary objectives during 2017 will be to strategically deliver projects that were proposed during the IEEE board outreach. They are also looking at providing additional recognition to industry engineers via the Fellows process and additional membership grades.
Ten or twelve years ago, PES was offering very little education to our members. That has changed significantly during those years, and we now offer tutorials at conferences, webinars and also a selection of stand-alone courses. However, we’ve really only scratched the surface. There is a whole new generation of power and energy engineers who could benefit from impactful education offerings from a trusted independent source like IEEE and PES.
Look for new and different offerings in the future from PES, from the very basics of power and energy education, to the newest and deepest technical subjects that are required to build and operate today’s modern power systems. Workshops and mini-conferences dedicated to specific topics are also likely.
Additionally, the IEEE Educational Activities Board (EAB) is embarking on the development of new offerings that should be of interest to all power engineers, as well as all IEEE members. Courses nearing rollout include “Cybersecurity Tools for Today’s Environment”, and “Hacking your Company: Ethical Solutions to Prevent Cyber Attacks”. Other courses in development include topics like “The Internet of Things”, and “The IEEE Technical Roadmap on Wake Up Radio”, a low power/low latency standard that is part of 5G. Additional courses in development include non-technical offerings such as “Stuff You Didn’t Learn in Engineering School”, and “Effective Management Skills for Engineers”.
Women and Young Professionals
These two groups are a focus of both PES and IEEE. Many of you know that PES has been holding events at major conferences and other events around the world to focus on attracting and retaining women to our profession. It has been an ongoing struggle and we need to redouble our efforts. Similarly, we must realize that attracting and retaining Young Professionals (YPs) will require a different model of communication and participation from the ones that most of us are familiar with.
The Technical Activities Board (parent organization of all the technical societies like PES) commissioned an AdHoc Committee to increase the roles and participation of women and under-represented minorities in 2016 on which I had the pleasure of serving. Our team will be recommending a course of action to advance the participation of women, with a recommendation being made to TAB at the February 2017 meeting. Unfortunately I’m not able to share the results at this time since this article was written before that meeting. Our committee recommended a separate effort on the under-represented minority front since there were a number of challenges, including not being able to identify minority members, that we were not able to complete during 2016.
On the YP front, the IEEE Board of Directors held a retreat in January 2017 that included the participation of about 10 or 12 dynamic YP’s from around the world. A large part of the strategic exercises were directed at how to engage YPs in what many of us would consider non-traditional roles. Topics like “micro-volunteering”, how IEEE needs to communicate with YPs, and new membership modelswere debated.
And finally, thank you all for the opportunities you’ve given me to serve PES and IEEE during the last 15 years. They have truly been the highlight of my career, and I’d gladly do it all again just for the privilege of working with all of you. Please give the future PES leadership the same unwavering support you have giving me during my years as one of your leaders.