IEEE Power Electronics Society Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Town hall meeting recognizes achievements and looks to the future

19 October 2018

The IEEE Power Electronics Society  (PELS) celebrated its 30th anniversary last month with a town hall meeting in Portland, Ore., held in conjunction with its annual Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition (ECCE), which took place from 23 to 27 September. For those who could not be there, the meeting was broadcast live and recorded for future viewing.

IEEE PELS traces its origins to the Power Electronics Council, formed in 1983.

“We had to start life as a council—a group of member societies rather than individual IEEE members—because not everyone shared our vision of the future of power electronics,” said Life Senior Member Trey Burns, the council’s first president. “Some felt that power electronics was covered adequately in other IEEE societies and that there was no need for yet another one.”

The individuals who worked to make the council a society had been involved in the early conferences related to power electronics. The Power Conditioning Specialists Conference in 1970 was sponsored by the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Group, now the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society. In 1973 the PCSC became the Power Electronics Specialists Conference, which evolved into the Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition. There’s now an ECCE–North America, an ECCE–Europe, and an ECCE–Asia.

All that activity eventually led to the establishment of the IEEE Power Electronics Society. Life Fellow John Kassakian was its first president.


The field of power electronics drives the revolution in sustainable energy. Power electronics systems are starting to become the standard for nearly everything that processes or uses energy—which makes for abundant career opportunities and a bright future for PELS members. The society has grown steadily in the past 30 years, from fewer than 4,000 members worldwide in 1988 to more than 9,500 today. The society has more than 150 chapters, representing all 10 regions. PELS is now a global resource for professionals and researchers.

Its publications include IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, which is among the top 25 journals in electrical and electronic engineering by journal impact factor, according to the 2017 Journal Citation Reports by Clarivate Analytics.

PELS organizes global competitions such as Empower a Billion Lives (EBL), which aims to innovate scalable solutions to bring electricity to more than a billion people living in energy-poor regions of the planet. The recent Google Little Box Challenge attracted entries from all corners of the globe; the challenge was to build a power inverter about 10 times smaller than the state-of-the-art version.

The society has two annual flagship conferences. This year’s Applied Power Electronics Conference and Exposition attracted 5,000 people from some 45 countries. The Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition, which has become a premier conference for professionals and researchers, attracted more than 1,750 delegates this year, a record for the event.


The town hall was held to share ideas and interact with members. There were speeches by society leaders including its president, IEEE Fellow Alan Mantooth, and a question-and-answer segment.

Mantooth introduced the members of the administrative committee and thanked them for their efforts, dedication, and service.

After reviewing the society’s history, he summarized recent accomplishments and activities. He pointed out the growth in membership and the society’s diversity and inclusion programs.

“We sustain a better than 5 percent growth rate and enjoy a high member retention rate as well,” he said. “As increasing the diversity of our membership and being more inclusive are cornerstone goals of our strategic plan, two of our fastest-growing membership segments are Young Professionals and Women in Engineering.”

He also spoke about the role PELS has taken in establishing and nurturing the IEEE Transportation Electrification Community. TEC is designed to be the hub for transportation-electrification activities across 11 IEEE societies and the IEEE Standards Association. TEC is composed of a global community of academics, engineers, industry partners, and passionate practitioners in the fields of aerospace, automotive connectivity, autonomous AI, marine, and rail. It also covers manufacturing best practices, research information, and standards development.

During the Q&A segment, several attendees asked how PELS could assist members in networking and exchanging ideas. The vice presidents emphasized the importance of volunteering for activities such as joining local chapters, helping to organize conferences, and getting involved with the standards-development committees.


PELS has accomplished a great deal, but there are still many issues to tackle, the leaders say. President-Elect Frede Blaabjerg, an IEEE Fellow spoke about the society’s strategic goals and major initiatives.

The society’s overarching aim is to ensure that it stays relevant, Blaabjerg said. It is accomplishing that through its three major initiatives: Empower a Billion Lives, the IEEE Power Electronics Society Cyber-Physical Security Initiative, and the International Technology Roadmap for Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductors.

The Empower a Billion Lives initiative is a humanitarian and philanthropic program that started in May. Some 3 billion people live in energy poverty, including 1.1 billion with absolutely no access to electricity. The program addresses the social and economic challenges of ending energy poverty through a competition among groups of engineers in all stages of their careers.

The Cyber-Physical Security Initiative aims to define design phase power electronic systems hardening and to communicate the cyber-physical requirements within power electronics.

The International Technology Roadmap for Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductors identifies and supports the future research and technology developments of wide-bandgap semiconductors by providing reference, guidance, and services.

IEEE Life Fellow Gerard Hurley is the history chair for the IEEE Power Electronics Society.

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