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In the Loop

Paris 2018 - Some Technical Insights

Every two years, the world’s number one global power system event is run by CIGRE in Paris, France. Known as the Paris Session, this event attracts members from across the whole CIGRE community and is the culmination of the previous two years of the CIGRE knowledge programme. The Paris Session is unlike any other conference. It offers an in-depth interactive congress, following a rigorous process where, rather than being presented, hundreds of papers are collaboratively debated.

At the Paris Session, unlike at most conferences, Authors do not present their papers. Their papers are circulated to delegates and carefully analysed in advance by the Study Committee ‘Special Reporters'. Before the Paris Session, these Special Reporters prepare a series of questions addressed to the community in order to stimulate contributions.

The ‘Group Discussion Meeting’ of each Study Committee, managed by the Special Reporter, allows the selected ‘Contributors’ to present their point of view and experience, before an audience of experts. This way the collective expertise of the Contributors is harnessed to create new ideas that build on what the author presented in their paper under discussion.

New ideas and knowledge are synthesised the following day in what are called 'Daily Reports'. These, along with other Group Discussion Meeting inputs, form the basis of what the CIGRE Study Committees and their ‘Working Groups’ will focus on in the following two years.

Some further information on the outcomes of the Paris Session can be downloaded HERE

The following examples briefly illustrate the breadth of technical discussions that took place over the week. 

Some further information on the outcomes of the Paris Session can be downloaded HERE


Power System Development – A tutorial on the pre-feasibility study of a global electricity network was well presented, and included development of a global demand profile. The study showed increased interconnection could deliver efficiency by harnessing the geographical diversity of renewable generation and exploiting geospatial variations in the global demand profile.

Responsibility for reliability and adequacy of consumers' electricity was challenged when some electricity is supplied from the transmission grid, some is supplied by distributed generation and some by the consumers themselves.

Operationsand Control – there was considerable interaction and discussion on the challenges of operating the power system, that we are already facing in Australia, due to low inertia, low system strength and increasing intermittency and variability.

Environmental Performance – A working group led by Australia has developed a process, which allows for demonstrating compliance with international EMF guidelines.  There was also a useful tutorial on EMF’s.

Research on bird diverters using radars and surveys to assess their effectiveness against variables such as type, colour, species, season and environmental characteristics will be useful for companies that have bird strike issues.

Power System Technical Performance – presentations were based around the themes of integrating renewable energy systems, the increasing reliance on HV cables in built up areas and for the connection of offshore wind farms (and the resulting impacts on network dynamics), lightning performance and the continuous evolution of simulation tools. 

There was significant discussion on the impacts that bulk Distributed Energy Resources are beginning to have on network performance, including the increasing level of uncertainty that comes from relying on hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of individual generation sources compared to a small handful of large, centralised units

Markets and Regulation – There was a successful tutorial on Demand Response. Discussions occurred on how markets, planning and control were devolving to the edges of the power system as customer installed generation and electricity prices were increasing. There was concern about how efficient dispatch and control could be maintained during these changes.  This is particularly challenging as microgrids, normal grids and macrogrids based on emerging technology and world requirements continue to develop. 

Active Distribution and Distributed Energy– There was a comment from one of the German SO’s that he did not know where supply would come from when the wind didn't blow and the sun wasn't shining. He noted that this was an issue that wasn't being adequately addressed and was related to the parallel closing of some coal and nuclear power plants.  Discussions related to the growth of Distributed Generation and its associated challenges took place throughout the week.


Transformers and Reactors – Transformers are one of our most expensive pieces of equipment and the tutorial on transformer paper ageing and post mortem analysis noting kraft cellulose degradation processes was very useful.

Switchgear – There were interesting presentations on topics such as design concepts of HVDC CB's; differences in the composition of newer SF6 alternate gases; and controlled switching of CB's.  A very good paper considered controlled switching of un-earthed capacitor banks which showed alternate switching strategies had to be found to alleviate system alarms due to switching. A second paper was about CB type testing pass/failure rates and which tests are difficult for CB manufacturers to pass.


Cables – A tutorial on fault detection methods in land and sea cables was very topical and included tried and tested methods as well as some new innovations. There were real life examples of both land and sea cable fault finding methodologies.

Overhead Lines – New task forces have been established on asset management, construction methodology and safety and emergency restoration logistics planning. A tutorial on high temperature low sag conductors was interesting.  They can operate at 200 degrees with sag similar to conventional at 80 – 100 degrees.  They have high losses at high temperatures and are 2.5 to 3 times the cost but could be economic where easements are hard to find and load is peakier.

Substations – Key topics were the future of SF6 gas and the impact of digitalisation on substation design.  The B3 SC meeting was very informative and included the design of an undersea substation.  There was also a very good workshop on safe working in substations.

DC and Power Electronics – There was an increase in interest in DC and power electronics associated with HVDC transmission, FACTs devices to help stabilise the AC networks and power electronics for renewable energy connection and storage. Interest in Voltage Source Converter projects and DC distribution applications continues to increase, the latter with a pilot project in Wales.

Protection and Automation – One particular focus was the worldwide and Australasian challenge of protection operation during system emergency and low power system inertia conditions.

New Materials and IT

Materials and Emerging Test Techniques – This year a few alternatives to SF6 gas were showcased, including vacuum breakers at 145kV and 240kV in trials, with plans for 400kV with two vacuum bottles.  Also, there was one vendor with CO/CO2 at 145kV with scalability to much higher voltages. For lower voltage switchboards, solid insulation was demonstrated, which removes gas altogether.  The problem of SF6 now has solutions.

 Information Systems and Telecommunication

– Discussions focussed on Distributed Energy Resources, virtualisation and operational reliability and security issues.