President of CIGRE and Chair of CIGRE UK sharing their insights on energy challenges and opportunities

Rob Stephen, President of CIGRE, and Adam Middleton, chair of CIGRE UK, shared their insights on energy challenges and opportunities with young engineers through an online webinar on 19th August 2020. There were nearly 70 people attending the event.

The webinar is the first session of Birmingham Power Systems Young Professionals Seminar Series, organised by the CIGRE UK NGN (Next Generation Network) and hosted by Birmingham Energy Institute. The Theme for webinar is Global and UK Energy Challenges and Opportunities for Young Members.

Jingyi Wan, Chair of CIGRE UK NGN, in her opening address introduced CIGRE, CIGRE Paris and key benefits of joining the CIGRE NGN, including the CIGRE Young Member Showcase and Journey to CIGRE Paris.

Professor Xiao-Ping Zhang (, Chair in Electrical Power Systems, Director of Smart Grid, Birmingham Energy Institute, gave an opening address. He welcomed two very distinguished speakers Dr Rob Stephen, President of CIGRE and Mr Adam Middleton Chairman of CIGRE UK. Also welcome all the participants to take the time to join this webinar.

Prof Zhang then highlighted the Energy research at Birmingham including smart grids, HVDC and FACTS, renewable energy control, energy storage, energy materials, transport, and energy policies. etc. Prof Zhang mentioned that Birmingham is a great city very much related to the 1st industrial energy revolution, i.e., triggered by the development of commercial steam engines by James Watt in Birmingham in 1776. In recent years, Birmingham was named as the National Energy ‘Capital’. This would certainly encourage exciting low carbon energy technology developments as well as international collaborations.  Finally he pointed out that the energy challenges could not be tackled by a single country alone. International collaborations become essential for successfully implementing the Paris agreement on Climate Change. CIGRE is certainly an excellent platform to facilitate international collaborations, propose innovative smart grid solutions and support individual career developments.

Rob Stephen first highlighted the conflicting nature between ‘high reliability and security of supply’, ‘most economical solution’ and ‘best environmental protection’ aspects of power system. Rob then introduced the CIGRE’s technical activities (16 Study Committees, around 230 Working Groups with over 3800 experts from all over the world) and the structure of CIGRE. He then moved on to share his view on the challenges and opportunities from an extensive range of power system aspects, including active distribution networks, massive exchange of information, integration of HVDC/power electronics, significant installation of storage, new systems operations /controls, new concepts for protection, new concepts in planning, new tools for technical performance, increased use of existing infrastructure and new T&D developments and stakeholder awareness. Finally he highlighted the Power to Gas technology as the ‘Next Disruptor’, the potential of ‘e-Hydrogen Future Network’ and the grand vision of North Sea Wind Power Hub.  During Q&A session, he explained how CIGRE Steering Committee interact with Technical Council and provided advice to young professionals on how to get involved in CIGRE and engage with the wider power community.

Adam Middleton started off his presentation on his understanding of global megatrends – Decarbonization, Decentralization, Digitalization, Demand Growth and Diversity of Solutions. Adam highlighted the importance of considering effectiveness, sustainability of solutions, societal acceptability, and the need to act now to tackle the challenge. He also pointed out that the key to energy transition is ‘about how we get there and the only way we get there is to start with what we have’. He moved on to share his view of the impact of COVID-19 by adding new volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity to energy transition. He mentioned the important role of national governments under COVID-19 in supporting the recovery and transition of energy industry to move into a more sustainable future – ‘do not waste a good crisis’, said Adam. Finally he stressed the important role of considering sector coupling, the need of green hydrogen (from electrons to molecules) and the technical and economic challenges associated with it. During Q&A, Adam pointed out the importance of considering whole life cycle process when assessing the ‘Green level’ of a specific solution.

The webinar was moderated by Dr. Ying Xue, Secretary & Treasurer of CIGRE UK NGN and Lecturer of Electrical Power Networks in the Department of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham.




Notes to editor:


  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • Birmingham Energy Institute: The Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI) draws on the broad capabilities and expertise at the University of Birmingham and its strong relationship with collaborators from academia and industry, to produce studies and policy documents addressing the challenges facing today’s energy system. The BEI is the focal point for the University and its national partners, to create change in the way we deliver, consume and think about energy. We have over 140 academics engaged in energy and energy related research and development. The Institute is driving technology innovation and developing the thinking required to solve the challenges facing the UK, as it seeks to develop sustainable energy solutions in transport, electricity and heat supply. Co-ordinated research, education and global partnerships are at the heart of our vision.
  • CIGRE: Established in 1921 in Paris, France, CIGRE is a global community committed to the collaborative development and sharing of power system expertise. The community features thousands of professionals from over 90 countries and 1250 member organisations, including some of the world’s leading experts. At its heart are CIGRE’s 59 in country National Committees offering diverse technical perspectives and expertise from every corner of the globe.

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