Centennial Celebration

A short History of Study Committees

From the beginning of CIGRE and the biennial sessions, specific topics have been at the center of study and discussion. During the first conference in 1921, these topics and discussions were divided into sections, and within sections they were divided into a number “Groups”. This became the earliest form of open Study Committees that still exist today, one century later…

The creation and expansion of Study Committees: an international network of CIGRE technical experts

The rapid organization and growth of CIGRE’s Study Committees contrasted with the relatively slow formation of the institutional network of National Committees.

By 1925, CIGRE was taking shape and it needed technical continuity from one Session to the next. This was the initial purpose of the Study Committees, whose role quickly increased in importance, simultaneously with the process of international recognition consequent to the rise of expertise in these Committees.

Three Committees were introduced in 1927 for Oils, Cables, and Switchgear. In 1929, the Insulators Committee and the Over-voltages Committee were created. In 1931, the Overhead Lines and the Telephone Interference Committees were created, and in 1935 the Towers and Foundations Committee we set. Later, a Committee was created for Reactive and Distorting Phenomena, and the Sub-Committee on Filler Materials for cable boxes.

At the time of creation of the Study Committees, CIGRE’s Administrative Council only gave them very simple rules and regulations that were summarized in six articles. All power was given to the Study Committee Chair, who was free to direct the work as they saw fit, to convene them when they considered it useful, and to apply any particular working method.

The importance and value of a Committee’s work depended on the competence and the goodwill of its Chairperson. The Chair generally showed great dedication in conducting their work, and ensuring the collective usefulness of their Committee for the entire CIGRE community. As each Chair generally held an important technical position in their respective country, experience rapidly showed that a Study Committee had to have not only a good Chair, but also a good Secretary who, together, formed a close-knit team and who were often from the same country.

For the inter-war period, study topics can be summarized as follows:

  • Parallel operation of power plants and oscillation between machines; 
  • Problems in construction of large generators and transformers; 
  • Laws and electrical calculation of energy transmission, voltage adjustment and reactive power; 
  • Reliability of cables for high voltage; 
  • Insulation of lines, the nature and properties of insulators, and dielectric strength of insulation 
  • Earth connection of the neutral and extinction coils, and interference caused in telecommunication circuits. 

Thus, in the inter-war period, particularly through the growing and multifaceted work of its Study Committees and the related impact of its Sessions, CIGRE largely contributed to the recognition of the strategic character of the industry of electricity transmission and interconnection. This was confirmed by the study of the first Preferential Subjects. It demonstrated the specific nature, within the electricity system and industry, of this technological and industrial sector, working particularly in-depth on the principles of interconnection.

As shown by the orientation of CIGRE studies at the end of the 1930s and the industrial concerns and aims of its members on the eve of the Second World War, the construction of power systems was an effective factor of regional modernization. At the same time urban electrification had largely progressed both in emerging countries and in the colonial world.

However, in a determinedly positive approach, the new dynamics of CIGRE were driven by the creation of new Study Committees, which increased the technical – and perforce industrial and economic – spectrum of the international Organization’s action. In the period after the World War II, in order to better adapt to the development of technical systems and to the requests and demands of the CIGRE community, the following Committees were created:

  • Protection and Relays,
  • Energy Transmission by Very High Voltage Alternating Current,
  • Transmission by Direct Current,
  • Long-Distance Transmission,
  • Transformers,
  • Stability, and
  • Coordination of Insulation and Generators.

All in all, by 1950 there were 17 Study Committees.

Study Committee membership

Initially, all CIGRE members could join a Study Committee. However, CIGRE’s Administrative Council decided in May 1947 that the number of members on a Committee was limited in principle to 12. In June 1951, this number was increased to 16.

Despite this increase, the Study Committee Chairs still criticized this restriction, so to meet their request, two measures were taken by the CIGRE Administrative Council:

  • First, each Study Committee member was invited to form a Sub-Committee in his own country, chaired by himself, to which he would convene local peers he would select for their expertise. The members of these Sub-Committees, commonly known as advisors, continually improved the efficiency of the Study Committees.
  • In 1950, again for the purposes of widening the field of action of Study Committee Chairs, the Administrative Council allowed each of them to invite a number of engineers, chosen for their expertise, to its Committee meetings, at the same time as its Official Members. The discussions could thus be widened and nurtured by new contributions.

Study Committee Chairs were thus given due recognition for their essential role within CIGRE’s organization. The Study Committee with a Chair, a Secretary, often an appointed interpreter, and 16 Permanent Members, together with experts, advisors, a special reporter, and its Study Group, now clearly was one of the fundamental units, if not the fundamental unit, on which CIGRE was definitively founded.

100 years of knowledge sharing

To view how the Study Committees have evolved, grown, and developed is to look at the titles and their longevity; the changes in their organization, their orientations and their contents. Appendix 1 shows the Study Committees (and their evolution) from 1927 to 2002.

In September 2000, the Administrative Council asked the Technical Committee Chair to propose a new organisation of CIGRE’s technical activities to reflect a new vision and ambition for CIGRE. It was felt that by revising the SC scopes, creating new SCs, and by disbanding/merging some of the existing SCs, CIGRE would better address the needs of all target groups within the changing operating environment.

As so, in 2002 adaptation to the new Electric Power Industry (EPI) environment (re-regulation, electricity markets, environmental concerns) was accomplished. Four ‘domains’ were established and working bodies within these domains.

  • Equipment domain (A)
  • Sub-system domain (B)  
  • System and electricity market domain (C)
  • Supporting technologies domain (D)

Appendix 2 shows the existing 16 Study Groups that have brought CIGRE to its 100 year celebration.

APPENDIX 2 - the present CIGRE Study Committees are as follows:

Next edition: The growth of the National Committees…

Centennial Celebration

During the celebration of CIGRE’s centennial, each issue of Electra will feature a short article on our organization’s history and development.

Top of page