By Michael Heyeck, PE, CIGRE VP Finance & Treasurer
& Colin Knox, CIGRE Marketing Consultant, Aspire
CIGRE financially sound through the pandemic
Thankfully, CIGRE anticipated the loss of a Paris Session in finances, and we endured; thanks go to prior treasurers, Richard Bevan, and Michel Augonnet. CIGRE was also prescient in funding a digital platform prior to the pandemic that sustained our relevancy throughout the isolation period of the pandemic. We did not have a 2020 in person event but held virtual events in 2020 and 2021 that were costly.
With the 2022 Paris Session a success and membership growing, plus cost savings implemented, we have returned to our cash reserves at the end of 2022 to nearly 4 million euros. This will assist the non-Session year, 2023, where we expect the balance to be nearly 3 million euros at year end. In 2024, we have plans in place to restore the cash reserves to well over 3 million euros approaching 4 million euros as we endure higher global inflation.
2023 strategic planning for CIGRE through 2030
CIGRE will not be complacent with our success in 2022 and has commissioned two strategic task forces to develop a path for CIGRE in 2030 for the exciting energy transition ahead. Michel Augonnet, CIGRE President, has appointed Michael Heyeck, VP Finance & Treasurer as Task Force convener for the business and operational track with many from the Steering Committee, and has asked Marcio Szechtman, VP Technical & Chair of the Technical Council (TC) to address the technical track with the TC’s Strategic Advisory Group (SAG).
The motivation for the 2023 strategic plan is that the energy transition employed globally will have many disruptive, challenging, and exciting changes. CIGRE sees the power industry on an expansive track, in terms of its scope and range of activities. Society is aiming to become 100% electrified and the electricity sector is considered as fundamental to modern humanity as basic needs of health, food, and clean water. The electricity sector has made significant cuts in carbon emissions, and it is envisioned that other sectors, transportation, buildings, housing, and industry, will migrate significantly to the electricity sector with profound challenges and changes.
CIGRE has evolved and will evolve to assist with business and technical needs to respond to these challenges. CIGRE is a leading platform for knowledge sharing, a true on-line laboratory to assist innovators in the development of suitable products for a sustainable future of our planet. And CIGRE is well positioned to meet these challenges with its fundamental neutrality for knowledge sharing.
The focus of the remainder of this article is on the business and operational sides of CIGRE, but our commitment is to support and enhance the technical foundation of CIGRE in a quality manner. We will do so with our non-profit commitment for impartiality for the betterment of society. It is important to recognize that the business and operational side of CIGRE must be financially sustainable, with membership and registration fees absolutely affordable, to ensure our quality technical foundation always.
Our membership is growing with brand awareness
So, it is not only about membership growth, but membership growth is a force multiplier that drives registrations, technical participation, and sponsorships to enable sustainable finances. And sustainable finances allow affordable fees. Surveys indicate sensitivity to price, and we must maintain affordability. CIGRE has the potential to grow worldwide to 30,000 to 35,000 equivalent members by 2030 (7-10% growth rate) with 50,000 as a long-term target. Currently we are just over 17,000 equivalent members.
In 2017, we began a brand, marketing, and communications strategy to sustain membership growth (marketingresources.cigre.org). With substantial growth in membership, CIGRE, as with any profit and non-profit business, must adopt operational economies of scale. For example, CIGRE has made several digital platform enhancements that were vital in the pandemic. Prior to 2017, CIGRE’s knowledge management system (KMS) was developed to allow remote collaboration. We subsequently digitized ELECTRA (2019) and CSE (CIGRE Science and Engineering journal) recently.
For 2023, we will be updating eCIGRE our busiest website and home to our vast publications with a search engine. Overall, all CIGRE websites enjoy page views approaching 2 million annually (up 18%), and nearly half million user visits (up nearly 60%). More traffic on eCIGRE means more sponsorships and non-member payments for publications. This is revenue growth is ancillary to membership and registration revenues, but it helps keep fees down some.
In 2022, we developed a membership gateway (join.cigre.org). Many people visiting our CIGRE digital assets, will see a “Join” button that enables ease of sign-up once they see the obvious member benefits.
Several National Committees (NCs) have joined this gateway and we are receiving new members almost daily. Here is some of the data:
As of early December 2022, the membership gateway (join.cigre.org) had generated the following new members:
- Collective Members: 14
- Individual Members: 380
- Individual Young Professional Members: 162
- Individual Student Members: 432
As we reach full NC coverage, we forecast the gateway will deliver between 1500-2000 new members a year. Note the new members are much greater in number than our ordinary attrition. In terms of diversity there are higher number of young professionals and students, and the numbers show 15% of members are women. Both metrics are helping us with our demographic goals.
2022 membership survey feedback
Our brand, marketing, and communications project conducted a comprehensive 2022 individual membership survey, and the Central Office conducted a 2022 Paris attendee survey. The results will be used for the 2023 edition of CIGRE’s strategic plan.
Overall, the results of the survey were member positive, with CIGRE in most cases generating good to excellent levels on differentiation, perceived value, and member satisfaction. We found that 93% of respondents indicated that they would renew their membership. The top five positive attributes included:
- Collaborate with technical experts.
- The opportunity to participate in Study Committees or Working Groups.
- Accessing globally diverse perspectives.
Reciprocally, a minority risk of membership attrition included 24% ranked price as their top two factors, 7% see membership as optional, and 17% see CIGRE like others.
The 2022 Paris Session survey had five questions relating to this Strategic Plan. Broadly, the top answers to each question are as follows:
Question 1 > According to you, why does CIGRE exist?
- Sharing and developing power system technical expertise across all aspects from the points of generation to end customers.
- Foster innovation in relation to power systems.
- Enable networking amongst its members.
Question 2 > What is primary purpose and strength of CIGRE’s today?
- Provide an open international platform for knowledge sharing among utilities, manufacturers, institutes, and academia, etc.
- Promote cleaner and more accessible electricity for all mankind by building better future power systems.
- Serve as think tank for global energy industry.
Question 3 > What do you expect from CIGRE?
- Technical excellence in power systems.
- Future perspectives on tomorrow’s technical challenges, including boundary technologies and industries.
- Relevant technical issues of the day.
Question 4 > If you had to improve one thing in CIGRE, what would it be?
- Visibility for new topics such as storage, Renewable Energy Systems, Hydrogen, e-mobility.
- More tutorials and best practices for young professionals and academia.
- CIGRE position papers for policy makers at global and national levels.
Question 5 > Which future goals CIGRE should pursue in coming years to increase relevance?
- CIGRE’s contribution to the energy transition.
- Accessibility and ease-of-use for eCIGRE.
- More agile in a fast-changing environment.
2023 brand, marketing, & communications plans
The new CIGRE brand released in 2017, and the digital platform soon after, has provided CIGRE with enhanced relevancy in the pandemic. Important to that brand in 2017 included our broadening to end-to-end (E2E) power system expertise. This includes distribution and grid edge elements which adds to the traditional elements of generation and transmission.
We continue our efforts and our key plans for 2023 include:
- Growing CIGRE technical content relating to the energy transition and making sure ELECTRA and CSE feature it.
- Continue to support membership growth which helps sustain CIGRE financially, but not just any growth, including:
- Diversify the demographic profile of CIGRE, including more women, students, and young professionals to sustain CIGRE’s future.
- Grow the diverse geography to sustain our global status and diversity of perspectives.
- Diversify industry segments including new entrants.
- Complete a new version of our online knowledge repository eCIGRE, for enhanced member satisfaction and appeal including:
- Delivering a world class user experience with ease of access.
- Better Collective Member user self-management.
- Progressive digitisation of content and enhanced “searchability.”
- Enhanced understanding of users and data and the development of intelligent user experiences from those learnings.
- Exploring the possibility of a single login jointly with ELECTRA.
- A dynamic new image.
- Growing the membership gateway (join.cigre.org) NC participation to support membership growth.
- Continuing our brand by exposing the value of membership, and the technical work and Technical Brochures of our Study Committees and Working Groups with participation approaching 4500 people.
- Advancing SCOPUS indexed publications by CIGRE.
- Deepening our understanding, engagement, and data around our Collective members.
Exciting times ahead for CIGRE in the energy transition
The 2023 strategic planning efforts will culminate in the fall of 2023 upon review and approval from the Administrative Council. It will culminate with the Technical Council’s Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) efforts and the business and operational aspects from the Strategic Task Force. The motivation is the energy transition and the extraordinary period ahead.
CIGRE has a bright future ahead rooted in the unbiased technical foundation built since 1921. The CIGRE brand is valued today as a one-stop end-to-end power system expertise powerhouse. Maintaining that brand requires vigilance absent complacency, knowledge sharing absent bias, and a robust community of networked volunteer experts providing value for the betterment to society.
Thumbnail credit: Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash