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IEEE: The expertise to make smart grid a reality

Interview with Nicholas Abi-Samra

Nicholas (Nick) Abi-Samra is with Accenture's Smart Grid Operations Technology practice and has more than 30 years of experience in the power system, from generation to customer systems. He is an active member of several IEEE technical committees and is the chair for the IEEE Power Electronics and Power and Energy activities in San Diego.

The 2012 Power & Energy Society General Meeting takes place July 22-26 in San Diego. This conference preview is courtesy of Nick Abi-Samra, who took on the dual challenges of serving as both General Chair and overall Technical Program Coordinator.

Question: As chair of the PES General Meeting, what did you look for in topics?

The IEEE Power & Energy Society General Meeting (IEEE PES GM) is a power engineering conference that brings together practicing power engineers and academics from all over the world. As the General Chair and overall Technical Program Coordinator, my first mandate was to work with the Technical Council to identify an engaging and wide-ranging umbrella theme for the conference. "New Energy Horizons... Opportunities and Challenges" is a theme that gave us the perfect stepping-off point to develop the five main Super Session topics, which are Opportunities and Challenges of Integrating Wind, Solar and Other Distributed Energy, and Energy Storage; Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles; Innovations in Communications for Power Systems; Nuclear Power; and Managing Power Systems Under Changing Conditions. From here, we drilled down to identify the 28 sub-topics—all of which were selected to be of global interest, highly stimulating, and thought-provoking to the experts gathered to promote, share, and discuss issues and developments in the field of electrical power engineering.

Question: How many sessions are there?

This year we have a record-breaking IEEE PES GM, with about 1,289 accepted papers which were peer reviewed by the different committees. We are offering 170 technical sessions out of which 68 are panel sessions. This by far exceeds any other previous IEEE PES GM. We have had 21 technical committees planning for technical sessions and panels in their areas. In addition to the Plenary Session, which will be moderated by PES President Noel Schulz, the IEEE PES GM will host Super Sessions, panel sessions, paper sessions and forums, poster sessions, and tutorials. In the case that an attendee is unable to attend every session he or she might wish to, we are providing all attendees with a USB drive containing all accepted papers and Super Session presentations. The USB constitutes a wealth of great information from the best in the industry.

Question: What area of energy has seen the most development recently?

With the federal funding in the US and funding elsewhere in the world, we are seeing expanded penetration of Smart Grid in many of its facets such as: smart meters, distribution automation and phasor measurements units. In terms of energy, we are seeing a changing resource mix of conventional and renewable energies and heightened interest in demand response and energy efficiency. You will see this reflected in the program for the IEEE PES GM.

Question: There are many definitions of Smart Grid, how do you define it?

I define Smart Grid as a communication-enabled electrical grid that collects and acts on information about the behavior of all participants (energy providers and consumers) in order to improve the economics, efficiency, reliability, importance, and sustainability of electricity services. It has the promise of self-diagnosing issues and self-healing, incorporating numerous advanced technologies at all stages of the electricity supply chain. I counted 446 papers with the words Smart Grid, renewables and electric vehicles in the title. We probably have as many papers that tackle the subjects without having the specific words in the title. Hence, we are living up to the conference theme of "New Energy Horizons Opportunities and Challenges!"

Question: What would you most like attendees to know going into this IEEE PES GM?

We have a lot of technical sessions going in parallel. They range broadly enough in topic areas to cover interests in technical innovations, policy, infrastructure, and workforce issues. The IEEE PES GM will allow experts from across the power and energy professions to discuss various issues and developments in all fields related to transmission, distribution, generation, and renewable energy. This year, and as a first, we are placing a major emphasis on communications, and have invited world experts to talk in a Super Session on the topic, which will go all day on the last day of the conference. I encourage all non-power engineers to attend and see what exciting things we are doing in the information and communications space in Smart Grid. We also have many great tutorials and workshops. As well, the IEEE PES GM offers a Student Support Program and a Student Poster Contest. The Student Industry Faculty Luncheon with the International Job Fair for Students is a highlight of the IEEE PES GM. Finally, for companions and children, we have a great program of events to keep them entertained in one of America's finest cities, San Diego.