Short history of international CIGRE Paris

International technical organization, CIGRÉ (originally this acronym meant the Conférence Internationale des Grands Réseaux Électriques, and after the year 2000, the Conseil International des Grands Réseaux Électriques, or in English the International Council on large electric systems) was established in 1921. It was created on the initiative of the IEC (International Electro-technical Commission), which needed research support of international experts in its work in the standardization. In that time of early electrification, there were no conferences at which experts would discuss topics to support the electrical standards. There were, however, the electro-technical exhibitions, which have much to contribute to the visibility of electricity at this time.

It is therefore proposed by IEC the establishment of some form of an International Conference, which would complement the knowledge about specific topics from emerging electrical systems. With the assistance of another organization, Union des Syndicats de l’ Electricité (USE) from Paris, which was offering its employees and premises to support the idea of establishing such an International Conference, was already close to realization.

The Secretary General of the French Union of Electro-technical professions (USE), Jean Tribot Laspiere entered an arrangement on March 21st, 1921, in Paris, with the President of IEC Mr. Mailloux and the General Secretaries of IEC Mr. C Le Maistre, to convene an International Conference for electrical network. On the recommendation of the IEC the Conference was supposed to deal with the issue of Transmission of high voltages and should have a scientific-technical and useful character. At that time, was the highest in the world, the tension of the 110 kV and only some experiments with 220 kV.

After six months of preparations for the first Conference it was convened from 21st to 26th November, 1921, in Paris at the headquarters of the USE. IEC took care for the participation of several Member States that were members of that IEC organization, since it was the Conference of great interest for the IEC. The Conference was attended by 231 delegates from 12 countries. For the first President of CIGRÉ Mr. Legouez was elected (he held this position until 1928) from France and Mr. Mailloux, President of the IEC as the Honorary President. The Conference has received 19 reports and 49 papers which were discussed in three sections.

Image result for cigre paris first conferenceParticipants of the first CIGRÉ conference in Paris in 1921
(Jean Tribot Laspiere is sitting on the far right – the founder of CIGRÉ)


The second Session of CIGRÉ was in 1923 and the decisions have been taken to refer to the Conference every two years, to set up national committees due to collect papers, and to set up a study Committee for the study of rational use of energy. From the Study Committee for the rational use of energy an idea was born for creation of a wider energy international organization. So, it is actually referred to in this Study Committee of CIGRÉ, already in 1924, formed the World Energy Conference or today known as the World Energy Council (World Energy Council). Similarly, in 1926, from CIGRÉ Working group for statistical analysis of generators was born International Technical organization UNIPEDE (Association of electricity generation and electricity distributors), which in 1990 merged into EURELECTRIC.

During the period from 1921 to 1939, CIGRÉ had organized in Paris, ten of biannual sessions on which they oriented key problems of electrification of the world at that time. The number of participants increased from 231 to 870 and also the number of participating countries from 12 to 46. The Organization has been consolidated itself as a world leader in the field of electrical power systems. It was founded more Study Committees for detailed studying to certain elements of the electricity systems (SC 1 – Insulating materials and oil, SC 2 – Cables, SC 3 – Circuit breakers, SC 5 – Insulators, SC 6 – Overhead lines, SC 8 – Overvoltage surges; and also the system views, such as the parallel operation of reactive power compensation and others). In Study committees have begun to operate Working Groups that were published a special reports on topical issues of development technologies at this time. During this period, already build cables and lines of tension of 220 kV. In 1931 CIGRÉ started to publish a professional review ELECTRA, which also today constitutes an important source of innovations and achievements in technology for electric power sector.

It was also decided that the permanent headquarters of the CIGRÉ will be in Paris.

In 1933, the President of the Paris CIGRÉ became the Frenchman Mr. E. Mercier, who was an extremely talented engineer, builder of many energy installations, innovator and leader in the World Energy Conference (WEC) and world trade organization (WTO). He gave to CIGRÉ additional impetus in the right time. He was President of the longest term of Office, until now, a full 15 years. He was also known for the famous wise words of the CIGRÉ as the spirit of the development of energy systems, which is true even today. His successors – the Presidents of CIGRÉ, were always very eminent and well-known experts in the global energy sector.

The Secretary-General of CIGRÉ and the “spiritus agens” of the organization since its establishment up to 1963, when he died, was Jean Tribot Laspiere. After his death he was declared as founder of CIGRÉ. Full time of 40 years Jean Tribot Laspiere was organizer of all CIGRÉ events.

After the Second World War, CIGRÉ organized 11th Conference in Paris, already in June 1946. It was the first technical organization in the world that activated their membership after the Second World War. Europe was in ruins and it was necessary to quickly run all the levers of the profession to build a new era of electrification. In spite of the great difficulties with transport in Europe the first postwar CIGRÉ conference was attended by 877 delegates from 30 countries.

At that time, the first-ever 400 kV cable was presented, which later together with the new 400 kV network launched in Sweden (in 1952) and later in 1957 in Western Germany.

In 1948 they held 12th CIGRÉ session in Paris, which was attended by Professor Milan Vidmar as the first electricity expert from the new Yugoslavia. This meeting was the first attended by more than 1,000 participants. At this meeting, J.T. Laspiere suggested to Professor Vidmar the establishment of CIGRÉ National Committee in Yugoslavia.

Three years later, this idea was realized. In the year 1951 Yugoslav NC CIGRÉ was established and the first President was Professor Milan Vidmar. The first National Conference CIGRÉ of the Yugoslav experts was in 1953 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Organization of the NC CIGRÉ in Yugoslavia helped substantially in the process of the electrification of country in post-Second World War Yugoslavia. In the period 1953-1991 NC CIGRÉ of Yugoslavia organized twenty CIGRÉ National Conferences. In these conferences 2899 papers were presented. Those conferences also helped to make new knowledge and friendship between power engineers from different parts of the country.  After independence of Slovenia in 1991, Slovenian electric power engineers established in March 1992 the Slovenian National Committee of CIGRÉ. The first President was Professor Ferdinand Gubina. In the period 1993 to 2011 Slovenian NC CIGRÉ organized ten biannual CIGRÉ Conferences. The number of presented papers was more than 1200 or averages 6 times more than it was prior to independence. The same was also with participation of Slovenes in the Sessions of CIGRÉ in Paris.

(by Kresimir Bakic)