Issue 38 – May 2012
Living and sharing electrotechnology
At the beginning of 2012, Australian-born Ralph Craven, already one of the 15-member International Electrotechnical Commission's (IEC's) Council Board for the 3-year period from 2010 – 2012, was appointed President of the Australian IEC National Committee.
Craven is a man of considerable experience with a substantial working knowledge of international energy markets. He has worked in a broad spectrum of privately owned and state-run energy and resource sectors. In addition to electricity, these include coal, gas, and oil and cover Australia, Canada, New Zealand (he was Chief Executive at Transpower for a number of years), and Switzerland. He has held senior executive positions in energy generation, trading, and delivery sectors, set up high-voltage electricity transmission lines and substations, and managed large-scale system operations and national electricity grids.
Comfort reaped from Standards
If you ask Craven what he finds attractive about the world of international Standards, he tells you that one reaps comfort from Standards. 'There's a lot of work that goes into preparing a Standard,' he says. 'When you put all the pieces together and build something according to a Standard, whether the object is technical, or related to the safety of people or the environment, or any of the other range of issues that come into play, Standards offer real comfort in terms of support and technical safety.'
Through making an application for one of Australia's new pilot Smart Grid city projects he got to learn about some of the challenges involved in making Australia smarter. 'The work we put in for that submission taught us a tremendous amount about renewable energy, sustainability, and energy efficiency,' he adds.
Having worked in energy and resources and overall infrastructure, he has a good perspective on how all the bits and pieces come together from a systems perspective – whether it's small or large. 'I can appreciate the relevance of the IEC in fitting into the small parts of the big picture and how it is really fundamental in making the whole standardisation process come together in an exact sense, as opposed to the hoped for sense', he says.
'It's like a Meccano set. If you have it all coming together and all the parts have been tested and everyone knows what they can or cannot do in terms of where their limits are, it all works out.'
Differences in language not issues
Craven has travelled extensively and worked in many countries. When asked whether it gives him special understanding about people and on how to get consensus, he says, 'No matter where parties sit globally, the issues are the same. They're just called differently.
'Whether you're Chinese, Korean, Australian, or from Europe, you need to deal sensibly with the energy issues we're facing. There's a lot of rhetoric about doing the right thing for the climate and climate change. You need to make energy work for humans in a way that is efficient and effective. Smart Grids and smart cities are one of the ways now for people to think seriously about how we live in society and how we use our energy.
'Where you come from makes no matter. The frontiers are now between technologies and applications, and we need alliances between people and across frontiers where it's sometimes difficult to put the pieces together. It's all about how can we get the best out of technologies to which everyone has access because we're living in a global world'.
The notion of electricity as a social environment
The new Australian President talks of energy as being our new social environment. We can't live without it now, and it is that appreciation which is leading many decisions at government and country levels. 'You can't live without electricity. So, if you're not aware of the use of electricity and other energy forms, and how you interact, then you're not socially aware. Our way of doing things is going to be influenced by our move towards a more energy-aware society. We're all going to gain that consciousness.'
Summarised from IEC's 'e-tech', April 2012.