CIGRE National Committees: The creation and multiplication of an institutional network

As structuring and driving bodies of CIGRE, the National Committees were set up very slowly compared with the Study Committees. They became official in 1931, when the statutes of the permanent association were adopted and registered.

CIGRE’s National Committees are essential administrative intermediaries between the members and the General Secretariat in Paris. Their origin dates to 1923 Session which included a resolution which expressed the wish that “in every country, a Committee of some members would be created, with the aim of making the Conference known, having reports written, selecting only the most significant reports, and sending these reports to the General Secretariat so that they may be translated, printed, and distributed before the opening of the Conference.

The first six National Committees were in France, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States. In 1923, Italy and the United Kingdom had formed their proper committees. However, the creation of additional National Committees wasn’t fulfilled until 1931 when it was made clear, in Article 11 of the CIGRE Statutes, that they were necessary for the purpose of “participating in the preparation of the Sessions, … recruiting members of the Association [and] making the Conference known.” By 1950’s there were 34 National Committees in operation.

The French National Committee was founded in 1921 and by 1931 there were 13 National Committees in operation. The French National Committee quickly became the largest due to the large French participation in Sessions (due to the fact that the Sessions were held in Paris and it was easier for French Nationals to attend), the advanced state of electrical engineering in the area of power systems, and the fact that CIGRE’s permanent seat was in Paris.

During WWII, CIGRE’s central office maintained very limited activity. “The financial situation from 1940 to October 1945 is characterized by significant receipts in the form of subsidies paid - at the request of President Ernest Mercier - by the members of the French National Committee so that, awaiting contributions from other countries, sufficient financial resources can allow CIGRE to resume its activity without delay and to start preparing for the 1946 Session,” stated Secretary General, Jean Tribot-Laspière in his 1945 financial report.

By the 1946 Session, the US National Committee’s position had been strengthened due to the US’s role in WWII and the influence of American technology. The US National Committee Chairman presented a well-argued proposal which lead to a restructuring of CIGRE, aimed at the recruitment of permanent Members, establishing a new annual subscription fee for each of the different member categories in order to better to fund the Organization, and extending the range of member services provided between Sessions. The US proposal also led to the official establishment, in 1948, of two new member categories: individual members (persons), and collective members, who could be any of the following:

  • Public or private industrial or commercial companies,
  • Educational/research institutes,
  • Governmental organizations,
  • Scientific or technical associations.

It was also the US National Committee that instigated that French and English would be the official working languages for Sessions, and that the publication of the Session Proceedings would be bilingual.

By the 1950 Session, there were 50 National Committees. Their role was mainly administrative but they were an essential intermediary between CIGRE’s General Secretariat in Paris and each country’s permanent Members. It reduced the General Secretariat’s workload and facilitated contacts with its hundreds of members. For a long time, the National Committees’ main tasks consisted in soliciting/collecting and studying the reports to be presented at Sessions, sending to CIGRE only those reports which had substantive value, ensuring that the authors observed the regulations (particularly for the physical presentation of reports), collecting and forwarding annual fees, collecting and forwarding Session registrations, recruiting new members, and putting forward their views in answer to Administrative Council consultations. Their actions gradually diversified, which implied a growing workload and considerable dedication.

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The dynamics of Preferential Subjects

National Committees became, early on, the source for and responsible for fueling the biennial Sessions with papers. The ‘Call for Papers’, noting the Preferential Subjects, was sent out to members and potential authors by the National Committees. Each National Committee was attributed a “paper allotment” ranging from 1 to 10 papers and they were required to choose the best papers to fill their allotment. They could also propose papers under the “Additional Allotment” which would include papers by authors from countries without a CIGRE National Committee (though there was additionally an “International Allotment” for papers from authors from different countries). All Proposals, with a synopsis, were sent to the Central Office for selection by the Technical Committee.

Improving membership around the world

As we moved into the 21st century, the National Committees were a major asset for ClGRE’s development, utilising their “secondary” network of the National Committees. By hosting Symposia in their countries and the organization of Regional Meetings (for which Central Office provided assistance) the National Committees delivered a powerful means for enabling CIGRE to circulate technical information and to make the Association and its spirit of cooperation better known locally.

Through these events, National Committees had an essential role in the recruiting of new members with the added value of improving worldwide CIGRE awareness. These new members quite often included electricity generation companies, transmission system operators (TSO), distribution system operators (DSO), regulatory authorities, universities, and so on.

There was also a clear strategy for recruiting younger members and greater gender diversity, as CIGRE had to carefully ensure that the number of its members continually increased and renewed.

The Development of Regions

In the CIGRE Statutes of 2000, Article 17 was introduced on “Regions”: The Article provided for a group of National Committees to set up a Region which would then be officially recognized by the Administrative Council. Regions had to have at least five National Committees involved. Regions were to be set up to make CIGRE better known and further its interest in particular broad geographic areas. Regions could organize Regional Meetings, encourage Study Committees to address regional issues, coordinate actions with industry organizations, and encourage and nurture new National Committees.

CIGRE Membership – National Committee Responsibilities

National Committees have always been important players in the CIGRE organization, notably in promoting and pursuing CIGRE’s activities in the respective countries. Their duties involve collecting membership applications on behalf of the Central Office, encouraging the presentation of papers at Sessions, organizing technical events (on their own or jointly with Study Committees). National Committees appoint representatives to the Study Committees and Working Groups. These representatives have the opportunity to raise technical issues of concern in their country and to tap into the collective CIGRE experience.

In 1996 the “Distinguished Member” award was introduced to reward both seniority (10 year minimum membership) and contribution (administrative and/or technical). It is the duty and honor of the National Committees to propose candidates every two years, and those candidates must be approved by the President of CIGRE. On average, 80 nominees are granted this award every two years. National Committees propose candidates for other awards as well.

In 2021, CIGRE’s centennial year, there are - at present - 61 National Committees and CIGRE members in 94 different countries around the world. In today’s ranking by members, the top ten National Committees are: Brazil, China, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, Australia, and India.

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.

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