Centenary celebrations

IEC Netherlands National Committee reaches a hundred

By Philippa Martin-King

Another IEC NC (National Committee) has reached a major milestone in its electrotechnical activities. On 17 March 2011, after a 100 years of activity, it was the turn of NEC, the Netherlands IEC NC, to celebrate.

The tulip is a national symbol of the Netherlands. The tulip is a national symbol of the Netherlands.

The President of NEC, Frans Vreeswijk, greeted his visitors to the special ceremony held in the Haagse Diligentia, the old theatre in the Dutch city of The Hague, a place befitting such an occasion.

"And it is indeed a very special welcome in these hallowed halls of science and technology!" said Vreeswijk. "This beautiful theatre was once the seat of the practitioners of science, such as the Koninklijke Maatschappij voor Natuurkunde (The Royal Society of Physics), and engineering, and the Koninklijke Instituut van Ingenieurs (Royal Institute of Engineers). Both organizations resided in this building for many years." It was, he said, also the birth place of the IEC NC.

Vreeswijk gave his guests a taste of the times, taking them on a brief journey into the past. "Diligentià – with an accent on the letter a – was the original name of the Maatschappij voor Natuur- en Letterkunde (the Society for Natural and Literary Sciences), which was founded in 1793. The best translation of the name, Diligentià, is: 'through diligence' or 'thoroughness'. The purpose of the society was to inform its members on the latest development in the natural sciences by means of lectures and demonstrations."

The first NC meetings were held in the chairman’s own home because attendees were limited to 20. Later they moved to the Nieuwe Doelen (now the Haags Historisch Museum) and finally, when the society decided to buy its own premises, it bought the Diligentià and the adjacent coach house from the estate of the aristocratic Widow De Perponcher.

"The Koninklijke Instuut voor Ingenieurs, which was founded in 1847, was also based in this building, as was its electrotechnical department," said Vreeswijk. "It was here that the Board of Governors of the latter department made its plans to establish the Nederlands Elektrotechnisch Comité (Dutch Electrotechnical Committee) on 17 March 1911."

He described how the term electrotechnology was first used in the 1880s to refer to light and electrical energy applications, even though electric light itself wasn't born until the turn of the century.

From electrical lighting to light on demand

"Nijmegen was the first Dutch city to implement electrical lighting," said Vreeswijk. "Tilburg is today the first city in Europe to supply 'Light on demand' to a whole neighbourhood. The new kind of lighting is LED street lighting, which will automatically burn brighter when people pass by on foot or by bicycle, and automatically dims when no one is in the vicinity."

Consensus building is important for standardization

Vreeswijk described some of the major traits of the Dutch people that have played a major role in standardization. "Our country was the inventor of ‘polder model’ thinking", he explained. "We are good at exchanging knowledge and experience, and we have a great deal of experience in the field of consensus politics. Standards development is based on the same foundation of knowledge-sharing and consensus-building, and is therefore indispensible in the future."

The future of electricity

If no one knows exactly what the future has in store, said Vreeswijk, it's certain that communication, transport, work and leisure-time are bound to take leaps forward. "Many of those developments will involve electricity, as in the case of energy generation, energy supply and energy conversion, LED (light-emitting diode) lighting, medical systems, the electrical vehicle, and the control of and communication between all those systems," he said. "In other words, there’s a lot more to explore in the challenging future facing this 100-year-old organization!"

Cone for outdoor LED lighting. © Philips Cone for outdoor LED lighting. © Philips
The tulip is a national symbol of the Netherlands. The tulip is a national symbol of the Netherlands.