What makes the difference

Ronnie Amit and Frans Vreeswijk address Council

By Miki Zelenkovski

The Oslo Council meeting saw the formal handover between former IEC General Secretary and CEO Ronnie Amit and his successor Frans Vreeswijk. The traditional Activity Report that Amit initiated at the 1999 Kyoto GM (General Meeting) took a slightly different form this year. First, Amit focused on the unique advantages of the IEC, followed by Vreeswijk who provided an update on IEC Masterplan implementation.

In his presentation, Ronnie Amit focused on the unique advantages of the IEC In his presentation, Ronnie Amit focused on the unique advantages of the IEC

Stability on all fronts

Amit praised the financial stability of the IEC in recent years, which has allowed the Commission to perform well in difficult economic conditions. He presented some key figures, stressing the fact that the IEC Family, with a total of 163 countries (82 Members and 81 Affiliates) has been stable for several years, providing a truly global reach.

Managing the entire standards development process

Very few organizations outside the IEC can claim that they manage the entire standards development process. In the IEC, IEC CO (Central Office) and SMB (Standardization Management Board) provide the complete standardization process from inception to publication.

The SMB is focusing on several key fields for standards development. Among them are Smart Grids, EVs (electric vehicles), renewable energies, energy storage, thermal solar energy and HVDC (high voltage direct current). A systems approach and closer collaboration between TCs (Technical Committees) on specific issues are being established.

One of the great strengths of the IEC is that most of its technical experts  and secretaries of Technical Committees come from industry, they are not employed by the NCs (National Committees). For their standardization work, they all benefit from a 100% electronic environment, set up by the Commission, allowing for document sharing, commenting and much more.

Identifying market trends

The IEC doesn’t only deliver what industry knows it needs today; it also tries to anticipate what will be required tomorrow.

The MSB (Market Strategy Board) comprises a group of CTO-level members from industries worldwide that greatly benefit from the work of the IEC. The Board keeps a close watch on technologies and trends that require our attention and sets strategies so that the IEC can respond to them in a timely manner.

In this context the MSB organizes market-watch events that provide the IEC with the opportunity to consult directly with market leaders to determine their needs and support new technologies and markets in a timely manner. This helps avoid duplication of work and encourages those developing relevant technologies to work through the IEC platform from the start.

IEC White Papers

Each year, one or two major technologies are subject to an in-depth analysis by experts in cooperation with eminent international research establishments. They are published in the form of White Papers.

So far the MSB has published three White Papers, which have received a high level of attention by regulators, industries and governments. The first paper on Electrical Energy Efficiency was issued 2 years ago. In spring 2012, the MSB oversaw the publication of the White Paper on Electrical Energy Storage, which led to the creation of a new Technical Committee, IEC TC 120.

In October followed a White Paper on the Integration of large capacity Renewables through the use of large-scale Electrical Energy Storage Systems. A fourth White Paper on Microgrids for Disaster Recovery is currently being prepared and publication is planned for the 1st quarter of 2013.

Regional Centres

The IEC also tries to improve workflows by being located increasingly close to our markets. The IEC Regional Centres manage standards development in the same time zone and are able to give answers, often in the local language, taking into account the local culture. They are an integral part of the IEC CO (Central Office). Much of the training is managed regionally and they participate in many awareness building events and activities that benefit the IEC brand and recognition.

The MSB secretariat is managed from Boston, USA. The two Centres in Boston and Singapore are providing services to the secretaries of an increasing number of Technical Committees. Today 52% of Technical Committees are managed from outside the Geneva Office. Our Regional Centre in São Paulo, Brazil, helps us stay in touch with important organizations and industries in the Americas.

Two of the CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems – IECEx and IECQ – are managed from Sydney, Australia.

Conformity Assessment

The three IEC CA Systems – the third one is IECEE – are the largest and best known multilateral agreements based on one-time testing of products globally. More than 2 500 testing laboratories participate in them. Each of the members of a System automatically accepts the conformity certificates and reports of all the other System members. So there is no duplication, no waste of time or money. With them manufacturers can access markets faster and at less cost.

This activity has been endorsed by the WTO (World Trade Organization) TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Agreement for many years.

Best in class IT solutions

The IEC has developed IT solutions that have enabled extensive improvement in processes and operations. They respond to the needs of users, are simple, low-cost and provide common platforms for the IEC community. They are available to all NCs and partner organizations.

More than 30 000 experts today rely on the IEC Collaboration Tools for document dissemination, group discussions and project management. A new voting and commenting system was put in place in 2011. The first standards in database format, launched several years ago, were well received and there are plans to add several more to the collection.

Involving the younger generation

For the third year, the IEC had a Young Professionals workshop during the General Meeting and welcomed 58 participants from 30 countries who got better acquainted with IEC standardization and conformity assessment activities and had the opportunity to sit in at SMB, CAB and several TC meetings. Four leaders from past years led part of the workshop. The group also elected the three 2012 leaders who in the coming year will represent the group and share its ideas with the IEC community (see e-tech article).

Reaching out to developing countries

The IEC Affiliate Country Programme has proved to be a very successful tool to ensure that developing nations use and adopt international standards. To date, more than 3 600 standards have been adopted at the national level and 36 countries have created a NEC (National Electrotechnical Committee). The programme is helping those countries to comply with the WTO TBT Agreement and encourages active participation in technical work.

Passion and support

All of the above is what makes the difference. This couldn’t have been achieved without the spirit, passion and culture of the thousands of people who, through the NCs, make up the IEC’s unique contribution to the market.

Before handing over to Frans Vreeswijk, Amit thanked the entire membership for the support and trust they had afforded him throughout his years as General Secretary.

Masterplan implementation

In his presentation, Vreeswijk focused on the implementation of the IEC Masterplan, taking its headings as lead.

Vreeswijk began by reminding the audience that electricity consumption is growing at a very fast rate, which means that the IEC has increasing needs to meet but also a multitude of opportunities.

The IEC Market

The first goal of the Masterplan is to develop closer relationship with the IEC market. Vreeswijk said that ensuring a balanced representation in all IEC NCs, increasing visibility in countries that are becoming key world players in the electrotechnical sector, approaching regulators and intergovernmental agencies, will be on his agenda in the coming months.

The home of industry

For the IEC to be the home of industry, a balanced representation at both the management and technical levels is essential. NCs should first identify the important stakeholders in their country, and then run promotional activities targeted to individual stakeholder groups. Training should be provided to technical people and Young Professionals should be more involved in national activities.


Electrotechnology is a fast moving sector and identifying upcoming technologies is a must for the IEC. MSB market watch events, the dissemination of information about new standardization work and the systems approach, which essentially consists of working towards technologies and markets rather than products, are put in place to help the IEC react quickly and position itself as the leading platform for international standardization and conformity assessment work.


The IEC already works with many other bodies to promote the use of IEC International Standards and to avoid duplication of work. NCs have a major role to play in promoting collaboration at the regional level. The IEC is also a pioneer and a leader in providing IT tools for its community of users and will continue to develop solutions that respond to their needs.

Experts and leaders

People make the IEC. Their motivation and passion is central to the quality of the organization. There are many ways in which the IEC can enhance participation and commitment: by reaching out to industry managers to explain the benefits of involvement in IEC work; by providing experts with user-friendly tools and training; by developing further the Young Professionals programme to secure the long-term participation of young experts and leaders; and by increasing awareness of the IEC in academic circles.

Finances, efficiency and the IEC family

The IEC is in a solid financial situation and will continue to monitor markets and seek ideas for new revenue streams in the future. It will protect the IEC brand and business model to ensure the continuation of revenue to NCs and IEC CO from sales of standards and other products and services.

Finally the IEC plans to develop a mentoring programme to broaden participation and demonstrate the value of balanced representation of stakeholders in its work. The idea is for the more experienced NCs to share best practices with new members or Affiliate countries.

In conclusion, Vreeswijk said that historically, the IEC business-like approach had resulted in an efficient, productive and responsive organization and that he felt confident the Masterplan implementation and ongoing dialogue within the community would further improve on that.

In his presentation, Ronnie Amit focused on the unique advantages of the IEC In his presentation, Ronnie Amit focused on the unique advantages of the IEC
In his presentation, Ronnie Amit focused on the unique advantages of the IEC In his presentation, Ronnie Amit focused on the unique advantages of the IEC
A round of applause greeted the announcement of the formal handover between former IEC General Secretary and CEO Ronnie Amit and his successor Frans Vreeswijk A round of applause greeted the announcement of the formal handover between former IEC General Secretary and CEO Ronnie Amit and his successor Frans Vreeswijk