The Virtual Centennial Session

A new step toward with the CIGRE Session format

The first CIGRE Session took place in Paris, France, from November 21-26, 1921. According to the proceedings of this event ‘in total 12 countries, 19 associations, 56 delegates agreed to participate in the Conference, 47 actually attended’.

Since then, every two years except during the WWII years, CIGRE has organised its Session in Paris, and its 2018 edition was attended by 3,800 delegates from 98 countries.

Of course, Session format has evolved greatly since its beginnings adapting to participant needs on one hand, and taking advantage of event industry technical evolutions on the other hand. It is on the occasion of CIGRE’s centenary that it is facing the greatest challenge to perpetuate its Session.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition was postponed to 2021 as an in person event, and replaced during the scheduled days by an online event allowing Session papers authors, workshop speakers, and tutorial presenters to display and explain their works.

The 2020 ‘e-session’ that took place from August 24 to September 3, 2020  had more than 2,500 online delegates. It was organised with four channels broadcasting the different contents in parallel: papers presentations, workshops, tutorials, forums, and even partners’ events. The average number of daily attendees was 1,500.

The post e-session delegate survey showed that 20% of the registrants had not planned to attend the 2020 Paris Session. This observation led CIGRE to envisage the postponed 2021 Session as a hybrid format, allowing both in-person and remote delegate  participation.

Thus, from September 2020, the Central Office and the 16 Study Committees led by the Technical Council, had been preparing a hybrid 2021 Session format.

However, on 28 April 2021, after reviewing the global pandemic situation, the Steering Committee recommended a virtual 2021 Session. The Administrative Council agreed and the Central Office and the Technical Council immediately set to work to organise a fundamentally different Virtual Centennial Session (VCS) from the previous year's e-session.

What is new with this VCS?

The new Session programme takes into account several requirements resulting from past experience: firstly in terms of duration and time slots.

So that participants from all over the world can connect at reasonable times - regardless of time zones - each Session day will be limited to 4 hours, and these will begin at noon for Western Europeans, corresponding to early morning for North and South Americans and evening for Asian countries.

As the 16 Study Committees wished to have 8-hour slots for their Group Discussion Meetings (GDM), these will be held over two consecutive days.

The Virtual Centennial Session will start, for Western Europeans, on August 18, 20 minutes before noon and will end on August 27 at 4:00 pm. This period preserves the weekend of August 21-22.

Just as a “normal” Session in Paris, the VCS programme will include an opening ceremony and an opening panel, 16 Group Discussions Meetings, four workshops, 16 tutorials, two forums: one for NGN and the other for Women in Energy .

Every day, during the four-hour VCS broadcast, six parallel streams will be available to participants who may select one GDM out of five, or a tutorial.

Five of the parallel streams will be produced live in Paris’s Palais des Congrès television studios;  Study Committee leader teams present will be composed of the SC Chairs, SC Secretaries, special Reporters, and other persons selected by the SC Chairs to run the different conferences (GDM or workshops). The contributors and speakers will be delivering their contributions or presentations via remote feeds.

2020 e-session vs. 2021 Virtual Centennial Session?

Unlike a normal Paris Session, there will be no poster sessions because these took place during last year’s e-session. This was, in fact, a kind of super poster session during which all the authors were granted 10 minutes to present their papers on line to a wider audience, and also had the opportunity to interact with the audience through question and answer sequences.

The 2020 e-session and the Virtual Centennial Session are quite complementary and have the same technical content as a normal Paris Session, though new sets of timely tutorials and new workshops will be delivered.

The programme of the VCS workshops includes:

  • A3 & B3 workshop (Friday 20): the impact of SF6-free alternatives in T&D substations and its switchgear switching equipment.
  • C6 & C1 workshop (Monday 23): Hydrogen supporting the energy transition.
  • C4 workshop (Monday 23): Electro-magnetic transient (EMT) analysis for large-scale system impact studies in power systems having a high penetration of inverter connected generation.
  • C2 & C5 workshop (Monday 23): Large disturbances in power systems and markets.

The opening ceremony will be on Friday 20 August, in order not to alter the pre-arranged dates for the speakers in the hybrid version.

After a welcome speech, CIGRE’s President Michel AUGONNET, will give the floor to the guest keynote speaker, M. Bao An XIN, the Executive Chairman of the State Grid Corporation of China. He will speak about "Building a power system based on new energy for clean energy transition". The ceremony will be concluded by the announcement of the 2021 Centennial Awards recipients.

The opening ceremony will be followed by the opening panel with another keynote speaker, Ms. Gauri SINGH, Deputy Director General of IRENA, who will deliver a speech on the global energy transition: main challenges, solutions, and education requirements for electrification and renewable energy system integration on all continents.

Panellists from around the world will be given the opportunity to react to his intervention.

As in a normal Session, the NGN and Women in Energy groups will be given the opportunity to organise their forums, using the Paris studios, with their leaders or representatives present in Paris.

New challenges for the organisation teams

The decision to move from the initial hybrid mode to the virtual mode eventually allowed the Central Office to focus its efforts on the innovative part of a hybrid Session, namely the organisation of five broadcasting studios in Paris with Study Committee leaders hosting the conferences in front of cameras rather than a real audience, all of which broadcast worldwide.

In addition, the need to ensure sufficient interactivity between remote viewers and the studios in Paris has led to the development of new and often unprecedented solutions.

For the Study Committees, the innovation was rather in the anticipated management of speakers and contributors who must be identified several days before the conferences and not the day before in a "normal" essentially face-to-face Session.

This anticipation requires respecting a certain number of new rules of collaboration with the technical broadcasting teams in Paris, in particular the preparation of scripts in the image of the television news with which we are all so familiar.


Another new feature developed as part of the Virtual Centennial Session is CIGRE TV.

The idea is to broadcast on all five broadcast channels at the same time, every day before and after the conferences, the same content consisting of non-technical information, renewed daily.

The aim is to immerse the audience in a pre-conference environment, similar to walking into the Palais des Congrès and meeting CIGRE colleagues, exhibitors, or Central Office staff, or looking for information on the day's programme and what was said the day before.

The content of CIGRE TV will consist of short interviews with CIGRE personalities, partners and sponsors, presentations of the programme of each day, presentations of archives tracing the history of the Association, presentations of CIGRE publications and of the recipients of the Centenary awards (CIGRE Medal, Honorary Members, and Fellows, etc.). CIGRE TV will have more surprises in store for the delegates.

The VCS will be supported by a specific website with information on the Session programme, on the registrations and contributions, and on the daily news.

This will be the first time that a Session has a dedicated website, unlike previous Sessions whose information was scattered on the institutional website.

Registrations and contributions

Last innovation for this year, already implemented for the hybrid version, the prepared contributions (700 in 2018) will be collected from the registration platform and processed by the Study Committees through the paper management platform, to elaborate the programme of their GDMs.

An important consequence of this innovation is that only duly registered delegates are permitted to submit a prepared contribution.

Deadlines for submitting contributions are not identical for all GDMs so delegates who wish to propose one or more contributions should be particularly careful about the dates. Indeed, the Study Committees do not have exactly the same organisation for the review of contributions before their acceptance or rejection, and there is no guarantee that late contributions will be taken into account.

As with previous Sessions, an area reserved for registered delegates only will be open and will give them access to the full broadcast programme of the Session, authors' reports, lists of delegates, videos of the VCS program for replay, and some surprises related to the Centenary.

The registration fees for the VCS have been adjusted from those of the original 2021 hybrid Session.

VCS registration for a CIGRE member will be 395€. Meanwhile, a special rate of €195 has been introduced for CIGRE member delegates who have agreed to defer their registration to the 2021 hybrid Session to the 2022 Session. CIGRE maintains the discounts offered to students and young professionals.

Contrary to a normal Session where some National Committees manage the registrations of their members, the management of the VCS registrations is entirely managed by the CIGRE Central Office.

What happens to exhibitors in a virtual Session format?

Exhibitors are very important to support financially Session organisation.

The CIGRE Technical Exhibition was first implemented in 1994 and held in the same premises as the conferences. For 24 years, the technical exhibition has been inseparable from Session.

The 2020 e-session tested a different way of showcasing exhibitors, allowing them to broadcast video messages during breaks in the technical events. Almost all the slots offered for these broadcasts were booked.

For the Virtual Centennial Session, the offer to exhibitors who have become sponsors has been extended to include interviews on CIGRE TV and the possibility of interactive virtual stands online.

A step toward hybridization of future Sessions

Considering the audience of the 2020 e-session, and the likely permanence of travel restrictions in the coming years, CIGRE believes that hybrid sessions will be the format of its future Sessions.

Thus, the VCS is an opportunity to test the audio and video capture part of the animation of the debates in the rooms of the Palais des Congrès, as well as their transmission to the delegates all over the world, while respecting the sanitary norms that are imposed on most of their countries.

The next Sessions, starting with the one in 2022, will be hybrid and will benefit technically and economically from the feedback of this 2021 adventure.

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