Shay Bahramirad, Vice President of New Initiatives, IEEE Power & Energy Society

Evolving Industry and IEEE PES Community Powering the Future!

Often deemed as the most complex machine of the 20th century, the electric grid is modern society’s life-support system. It provides the necessary functions that enable all critical infrastructures that billions of people in the world depend on. Everything on which daily survival now depends—clean water, refrigeration, medical care, reliable communication, access to cash and banking—requires, to some degree, electricity.

Yet our industry has always been evolving and facing challenges such as cybersecurity, aging infrastructure, interoperability, workforce, and many different challenges in a different era, but the electric grid is under elevated risk from the evolving impacts of climate change.

Climate change and severe weather continue to impact differently in different parts of the world. According to NASA, 2020 tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record globally [1]. In fact, six of the warmest years on record have all been observed since 2014 [2]. In 2020, the world saw record-breaking floods in Indonesia, wildfires in Australia and California, and the highest temperature in Antarctica. In the United States, 2020 became a record-breaking year of weather-related incidents with damages totaling approximately $95 billion [3]. The list of events is limited not only to wildfires, but also includes flooding, major storms, and others. Severe events and the resulting loss of electricity at homes and businesses often lead to fatalities, major financial losses, and many other disruptions.

Planning for low probability, high consequence events and resilience became more apparent after events like the one experienced in the State of Texas, where below-freezing temperatures that plummeted to 40 degrees below average led to blackouts that spanned multiple days. The rolling blackouts that resulted in multiple fatalities and massive financial losses sparked a national debate in the United States among the industry, regulatory, and academic communities. The technological advances that would be necessary to address these challenges would seem daunting to most, but as engineers, we do not shy away from problems. We run toward them. We solve problems through innovation, and IEEE PES is the energy sector’s leading platform, equipped to embrace our members’ ingenuity to innovate the solutions we need.

The PES Industry Technical Support Leadership Committee (ITS-LC) members have been working very hard providing support to the industry during these fast-changing unprecedented times. The COVID-19 Knowledge Sharing Task Force, which was created at the end of March 2020, involves several global industry leaders to develop a white paper, including a questionnaire and interviews conducted across the globe. The white paper was completed in May 2020: “Sharing Knowledge on Electrical Energy Industry’s First Response to COVID-19”. The report is accessible through the PES Resource Center and was followed by webinars to share the learnings and make it readily available to energy professionals globally [4].

The ITS-LC task force members have published another technical report in October 2020 titled “Resilience Framework, Methods and Metrics for the Electricity Sector” addressing gaps in today’s resiliency frameworks. The report concludes that resilience metrics and investments are dependent on various regional, functional, regulatory, and business factors and that a “one-size-fits-all” solution does not exist. The technical report, also accessible through the PES resource Center, has brought deserving attention to the need for including resilience considerations as part of holistic planning and investment prioritization functions. The materials developed by the ITS-LC have brought the highest revenue and have the highest number of downloads among all IEEE PES Committees. Three ITS LC-led documents are among the Top-Five of the PES Resource Center downloads.

Positioning PES as the leader in climate change and resilience dialogues have been challenging. The marketing team has been promoting visibility successfully through various channels including collaborative webinars, social media, interviews, and articles. As such, Damir Novosel, the ITS-LC Chair, discussed the importance of transportation electrification’s impact on emissions reduction in a May 2020 Energy Daily article [5].

Conferences and workshops bringing together leaders from industry and academia have been a significant part of the efforts. The IEEE Smart Cities program that is assembled by IEEE’s multiple societies, including PES, serves as another powerful platform for advancing the dialogue on decarbonization, emerging sophisticated technologies, and regulatory aspects. The IEEE Smart Cities virtual conference held in September 2020 brought industry and academia together to discuss how cities can utilize technology to plan for climate change, transportation electrification, and the impacts of COVID-19. Today, the Smart Cities community consists of over 4,500 volunteers and 160 active members.

Supporting IEEE’s humanitarian vision, the IEEE’s Smart Village (ISV) program supports energy-impoverished communities across the globe based on three pillars: energy, education, and entrepreneurship. ISV provides renewable energy solutions and funding to local communities and entrepreneurs and promotes community entrepreneurship training. In 2020, ISV expanded its volunteer base and established successful collaborations including REI-c and Maa Trust.

PES is also involved in engaging youth practitioners in the sustainable energy sector. Youth Sustainable Energy Hub (YSEH), including PES and UNICEF as its founding partners, is a global platform showcasing the selected youth projects from around the world in research and development, business and entrepreneurship, policy advocacy, and capacity building.

Most recently, a partnership with the United Nations was established as part of the technical working group on innovation, technology, and data to contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy.

As the resiliency whitepaper developed by the PES ITS-LC, which has the highest downloads of the PES Resource Center in 2021, strongly concluded and demonstrated, active involvement from diverse stakeholders must be a part of developing resiliency planning frameworks. It is time for collaborative action both from industry and academia experts, for a resilient and modern grid.

The future depends on our efforts today to establish a strong foundation for emerging and clean technologies that can be further incorporated as solutions for resiliency. Congratulations to all global volunteers of the Industry Technical Support Leadership Committee chaired by Damir Novosel, Smart Village chaired by John Nelson, Smart Cities chaired by Georges Zissis, Industry Advisory Council chaired by Kevin Curtis, and Diversity Taskforce chaired by Jim McClanahan, for actively powering the future!

  1. NASA, 2020 tied for warmest year on record, NASA analysis shows. January 2021.
  2. Jonathan Watts, Floods, storms and searing heat: 2020 in extreme weather, December 2020.
  3. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Record number of billion-dollar disasters struck US in 2020. January 2021.
  5. Damir Novosel, Electrify vehicle fleets and transportation sector will follow. May 2020.

Shay Bahramirad
Vice President of Climate & Resilience, Quanta Technology
Vice President of New Initiatives, IEEE Power & Energy Society