Building on our strengths

IEC General Secretary addresses Council

By Claire Marchand

IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk addressed Council at the 2013 IEC GM (General Meeting) in New Delhi, India, reviewing the Commission’s activities and achievements in the 12 months since the Oslo GM.

Frans Vreeswijk during his address to Council Frans Vreeswijk during his address to Council

Strong and stable

The leitmotiv of Vreeswijk’s presentation was that while the IEC is a strong and stable organization, it cannot rest on its laurels.

Increasing political tensions and social unrest breeding intolerance and a resurgence of nationalistic issues and behaviours; a financial crisis burdening governments and businesses the world over; bilateral agreements gaining ground over multilateral ones and thus undermining the role and value of International Standards; those are the major factors that the IEC – and any other organization, industry and business – has to deal with in its day-to-day operations.

A vision and a mission

With its 165 countries, the IEC is well-run, efficient and effective, a truly international body with a sound financial situation. It has a strong base: through its 82 Members and 83 Affiliate countries it is present on all five continents. Most of the experts who develop IEC International Standards come from industry.

The IEC has a vision, Vreeswijk reminded his audience: the ‘worldwide use of IEC Standards and CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems as the key to international trade’. Its mission is to encourage national adoptions of consensus-based International Standards; to stimulate world trade and business by ensuring technical and market relevance of its products; and to set the framework for CA in global markets.

Regional Centres help raise IEC market profile

Vreeswijk stressed the major role played by the IEC Regional Centres – IEC-APRC (Asia-Pacific Regional Centre), IEC-LARC (Latin America Regional Centre and IEC-ReCNA (Regional Centre for North America) – in representing the Commission at regional and national events, in raising its market profile, in collaborating with the NCs (National Committees) and Affiliates in their region and, in the case of Asia and North America, in providing technical support to TC/SCs (Technical Committees and Subcommittees).

Reaching out to the younger generation

The YP (Young Professionals) workshop has become a General Meeting staple, Vreeswijk said. In its fourth year now, the event welcomed 55 participants from 30 NCs in New Delhi. As in previous years, the feedback was extremely positive. Among the recommendations made by the 2013 YPs were the need for more national YP programmes, mentoring and more communication and follow-up between the YPs and their respective NCs. (see separate article in this issue)

Mentoring programme

Regarding mentoring, Vreeswijk explained, the IEC has already put in place a programme for NCs and Affiliates, launched in June as part of the Masterplan implementation. Its objective is to broaden participation at all levels. The first membership mentoring agreement was signed by Germany and the Czech Republic and on the affiliate side, Austria had agreed to mentor Rwanda.

CA for Affiliate countries

Vreeswijk introduced ACAS (Affiliate Conformity Assessment Status), a special programme developed for Affiliate countries. Its objective is to train Affiliate Countries to use IEC International Standards and benefit from its CA Systems through the recognition of IEC CA certificates, whenever possible at the national level. Training is to be provided through regional events and workshops, guides and documentation, as well as online learning modules that are currently under development. All Affiliates that have already declared the adoption of IEC International Standards as national ones are entitled to ACAS.

Trademark and IP protection

Vreeswijk also addressed the trademark and IP (intellectual property) issue, reporting that the IEC logo was registered in 65 countries while applications for registration were pending in 8 countries. He exhorted NCs to be vigilant about illegal websites selling International Standards or national adoptions, thereby undermining the IEC business model. We work closely with ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and other organizations to fight these websites and ultimately close them down.

Vreeswijk then urged the IEC community to resist pressure from government agencies to make standards, as referenced in law, available for free. NCs have the obligation to maintain the IEC business model and that means there are no free standards. Compliance is of the utmost importance and failing to do so could result in suspension from IEC membership.

Focus on energy…

Vreeswijk highlighted the fact that the IEC participated in key events this year, focusing in particular on energy issues. The IEC was invited to take part in the GSEP (Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership) annual summit and hosted a session on energy microgrids for disaster resilience and recovery. Held in Washington DC, USA in June 2013, the event brought together the heads of the largest electricity companies in the world.

In 2013 the IEC also became a partner of the UN SE4ALL (United Nations Sustainable Energy for All) initiative to provide developing countries with access to IEC International Standards for rural electrification. The initiative has set three objectives for 2030: universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix.

…and new technology sectors

To build on its strengths, the IEC needs to be proactive and initiate standardization work in new technological areas. Since Oslo, new TC/SCs and technical advisory committees have been set up, including TC 120: Electrical Energy Storage systems and SC 8A: Grid Integration of Large-capacity Renewable Energy Generation. The establishment of two new TCs was approved in New Delhi: TC 121: Switchgear and controlgear and their assemblies for low voltage, and TC 122: UHV AC transmission systems.

More changes occurred in the SMB (Standardization Management Board) with the transformation of SG (Strategic Group) 1 into ACEE (Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency) and of SG 3 into SEG (Systems Evaluation Group) 2: Smart Grid. A second SEG was created that will focus on Smart Cities. (see separate article on SMB in this issue)

As for the MSB (Market Strategy Board), Vreeswijk mentioned its new publications: a Technical Report on nanotechnologies in the sectors of solar energy and energy storage, and the upcoming White Paper on microgrids for disaster preparedness and recovery, expected in early 2014. (see separate article on MSB in this issue)

Encourage participation in IEC work

Vreeswijk updated the audience on the training programme put in place by IEC CO (Central Office). Organized by TISS (Technical Information and Support Services), with assistance from the Regional Centres when relevant, the objective of these workshops and training sessions is to increase awareness of the IEC and encourage participation in its work. In 2013, training sessions took place in 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

New IT services for the community

There have been several important IT developments in the 12 months since Oslo. A new look for the IEC website home page and the inclusion of a feedback button on all pages opening a popup form for public commenting, a customizable version of myIEC, a desktop and mobile application for the IEC Catalogue, and the CENELEC electronic voting and commenting system are some of the changes that occurred in the IEC digital environment. 

CA Systems are thriving

Last but not least, Vreeswijk updated the audience on the IEC CA Systems. All three – IECEE, IECEx and IECQ – have been thriving and have continued to offer truly international testing and certification.

Developments include a new product category – INDAT or industrial automation – for IECEE; the launch of a mobile application that provides access to all IECEx certificates on and off line; a totally revamped website and the introduction of new schemes for IECQ.

Listen and communicate

After summing up and commending the work accomplished since Oslo in implementing the IEC Masterplan, Vreeswijk focused on the future, stressing the need to improve NC representation, increase training for NCs and TCs and the need to reach out to Academia.

His conclusion was: “Let’s build on our strengths. Let’s involve all stakeholders at all levels. We have to listen and communicate more in a process that is as transparent as possible. I commit to put in place opportunities to enhance communications and in the meantime…I am just one telephone call away from all of you!” 

Frans Vreeswijk during his address to Council Frans Vreeswijk during his address to Council
The worldwide use of IEC Standards and CA Systems is key to international trade The worldwide use of IEC Standards and CA Systems is key to international trade
"We have to listen and communicate in as transparent a way as possible." "We have to listen and communicate in as transparent a way as possible."