President's Message:June 2020

Guiding PELS Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Frede Blaabjerg 2019by Frede Blaabjerg

The IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS) has now existed for more than 30 years, and I think the current state of the world has been our most challenging time. Within a month and a half, the world has come to a near standstill due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The virus is tragic because it has taken many lives and hit many families hard. In the future, many more people will be affected as the economy is impacted significantly and the virus continues to spread.

 In this column, I had originally planned to write about the developments at the IEEE Applied Power Electronics Conference and Exposition (APEC) 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 15-19 March. But one week before the event, we found out that we could not hold APEC as a physical event because more and more people could not travel, and companies were not allowed to send people to the conference. In addition, countries one by one were closing down completely. Therefore, we decided to make APEC 2020 a virtual event and conduct some of the activities online. Such a transformation requires many voluntary resources, and I would like to thank all who have been involved in this process – while at the same time starting to plan APEC 2021. 

 This year, we were expecting a record high attendance at APEC2020 because our technology is needed all over the world for many applications, and many companies are in the business of power electronics now. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to hold the in-person event this year.

 Traditionally, at APEC, PELS has organized all its meeting to keep the society running, for  example, conference planning; our seven technical committees; products like journals, transactions, and this magazine; the Administrative Committee (AdCom); and so on. Although we had to cancel all in-person meetings, PELS executives successfully managed to hold online meetings with many participants. A final AdCom meeting was held virtually in late April during which all issues related to 2020 and 2021 budgets were discussed and many other new activities were approved. This shows that it is possible to successfully hold larger virtual meetings without being physically together.

 COVID-19 has affected PELS a great deal and the IEEE as a whole. Along with the changes at APEC, there were many other PELS conferences to be held in the spring and summer of 2020 that needed reorganizing. As the crisis worsened around the world in April, there was no chance that these conferences could be held in person when web-based virtual conferences could do the job.  As a result, except for one or two conferences, they are now all planned to be held after July, which of course means the conference calendar might be crowded from August to December. Kudos to the Vice President of Conferences Liuchen Chang who has worked hard to ensure that there are no overlapping conferences. The largest move has been the IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition (ECCE)-Asia, which is moved to November, along with   many others. The impact of COVID-19 is expected to last a very long time, so we have encouraged all conferences to offer both options for presenters – physical and virtual presentations - and thereby be able to publish the paper together with a presentation. Later, all accepted papers will be included in the IEEE Xplore digital library. Consequently, we are offering a wide number of possibilities to authors. So please send your papers to those conferences and the upcoming conferences in 2021.

 Due to COVID-19, physical meetings have been very limited, and universities have been closed for longer periods of time. Subsequently, many company employees have also started working from home. So we are seeing a very fast transition in the workplace, as students also adjust to learning remotely, which seems to work fine in many situations. Thus, the way of working and studying may change forever, even after the situation is stabilized. Strategically, as the Society’s work becomes more and more virtual, it will become natural to do things without having to travel. Accordingly, PELS Chapters and other membership activities could also be established as web-based meetings, both in difficult times and normal situations. Actually, such virtual meetings could become even more frequent. Also, PELS will try to organize half-day events with a specific theme on the agenda – a combination of presentations, Q&A and discussions. Last year, we successfully launched such an online webinar on microinverters with good attendance, which was an encouraging event.

 During such times, with no travel, we can expect more papers being submitted to journals. However, because companies and universities/institutions are closed, it can be difficult to support the theory in papers with enough experiments. In that case, papers could be accepted with mandatory changes. Editors will typically give authors extra time to submit the supporting measurements so that the papers offer the same high quality and high standards when accepted as transactions papers.

 Our new IEEE Open Journal of Power Electronics is moving along and had already received more than 50 manuscripts for review in April when this column was prepared, and eight papers were accepted. Please take a look at those papers; they are free to download on IEEE Xplore: Also, consider submitting papers to this journal and support its establishment. It will take three years for it to be registered in the Web of Science and receive an impact factor.

 The next upcoming large events sponsored by PELS will be the European Power Electronics 2020 ECCE Europe in Lille, France, in September and ECCE North America (NA) in Detroit, Michigan, in October. We hope we are able to come together physically again at these events. At ECCE NA, among many activities, we will have a townhall meeting where PELS members will gather to discuss PELS activities. I hope to see many of you there! To all – take care and stay safe.