Preparing for the Next Generation of Power

The smart grid and renewable energy are topics for the IEEE Power & Energy Society General Meeting

7 May 2015

Electricity is the oxygen of modern civilization. And, like the air we breathe, it is taken for granted—but not by the 33,000 members of the IEEE Power & Energy Society, the organization’s third largest society. Thousands will gather in Denver from 26 to 30 July at the society’s General Meeting to discuss technical advances, best practices for the electric power industry, and organizational changes to keep the society up to date with industry trends.

The five-day event will be packed with activities including presentations of papers, panel sessions, tutorials, courses, student activities, technical committee meetings, and tours of nearby facilities.

“At any time, we have up to 56 concurrent activities,” notes IEEE Member Paula Traynor, chair of the steering committee. “The General Meeting is one of IEEE’s 25 largest events, which puts it in the top 5 percent of IEEE conferences.”

TECHNICAL ACTIVITIES

The first morning will be devoted to plenary sessions on the conference’s theme, “Powering Up the Next Generation.” Following keynote addresses by speakers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and others, there will be panels discussing next-generation technology and its drivers, and the next-generation grid.

“We’ve accepted a little more than 975 conference papers for presentation, 175 or which are already accepted for publication in the relevant IEEE transactions,” says Bill Cassel, an IEEE life senior member and a member of the steering committee that provided advice on the technical program.

The papers, representing most of the society’s 17 technical committees and four coordinating committees, will cover such topics as the intelligent grid, power system operations, power systems planning, transmission and distribution, and energy development.

“There’s a lot of interest in the integration of renewable energy and storage resources, and in electricity markets,” says Cassel. “Many of the papers have to do with the effects of new energy sources such as solar and wind, now that they’ve achieved significant penetration.”

More than 100 panel sessions have been organized by society committees. The local organizing committee will present four such sessions on integrating renewable energy and storage resources—hardly surprising, since the NREL is close by.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

Tutorials are on the program for attendees who want to increase their knowledge in specific areas or expand into new ones. Topics will include energy storage, transaction-based energy systems, wind plants, emission standards, the smart grid and its most recent evolutions, system modeling and analysis, smart substations, and cascading failures.

Colocated with the meeting but not part of it will be three so-called Plain Talk courses. These are power industry professionals who aren’t engineers and at engineers who are either new to the industry or switching between its different areas. The courses will cover power-system basics, distribution, and transmission.

There will also be “super sessions.” According to Cassel, these are panel sessions on particularly interesting and timely topics, such as aspects of DC in an AC world, the impact of changing electric-generation assets, challenges in asset management, and future economics of the grid.

Tours will also be held of power-related facilities nearby, including the Solar Technology Acceleration Center’s research park, the Western Area Power Administration’s training center, NREL’s labs for power systems and related research, and its National Wind Technology Center, the largest U.S. wind-energy research facility.

FOR STUDENTS

To encourage student participation, the conference will feature a poster session of student papers, a job fair, and other events. “A huge emphasis for us is educating and preparing students to meet future workforce needs,” says Traynor. That’s true not only for this general meeting but for the society as a whole. “Our members’ average age is in the 50s, and a lot of retirements are already occurring, so we emphasize student activities. We also provide scholarships and lodging for student attendees.”

NON-TECHNICAL ACTIVITIES

The general meeting also incorporates the society’s administrative activities, including meetings of its technical committees, the governing board, and its editors. “This is the one meeting that covers the whole spectrum of PES,” says Cassel. A series of town hall-style meetings will be held to gain member input on plans to reorganize the society’s technical committees to align better with today’s issues and developments.

“In the 25 years I’ve been attending this conference,” says Traynor, a senior technical leader at EPRI, “it and my technical committee participation have helped me change my technical area three times: from system protection to substation and generating-plant control-system design, then to real-time system operation, and finally to transmission-related research.” 

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