In Celebration Of: Engineer’s Day in India
As we at the IEEE Power & Energy Society join in celebrating Engineer’s Day, which is observed annually on September 15 in India, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania, we spotlight an individual whose innovative thinking and unwavering commitment to the field has resulted in technological advancements that have made an impact on the lives of countless professionals across the globe.
As Bikash Pal’s, Ph.D., Professor of Power Systems at Imperial College London, UK, five-year term as IEEE PES’s Vice President of Publications comes to an end later this year, he took time to reflect on a decades-long career that has played a pivotal role in the power and energy field – a field he joined as a young undergraduate student in India in the 1980s that has never stopped fueling his lifelong passion for logic, analyzation, and problem-solving.
Throughout his notable career – highlights of which include the leadership of several multi-university, multi-country research consortia in sustainable energy networks, smart grid and storage, and smart grid control; a SIEMENS R&D collaboration that led to the development of fast power flow and volt-VAR control tools in Spectrum Power, an advanced module for distribution management system solutions from SIEMENS that is currently commissioned in distribution control centers in Columbia, Bosnia, Norway, and Azerbaijan serving 15 million customers; a GE-commissioned sequence of projects for which he analyzed and solved wind farm high-voltage direct current (HVDC) grid interaction problems; as well as graduating over 25 PhD students; founding and directing the MSc program in Future Power Networks at the Imperial College London; spearheading various research efforts sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), European Research Council, National Grid, ABB, and UK Power Networks; and serving as a consultant for the United Nations – Bikash has been laser focused on solving issues within the energy industry that pose problems to society.
“In my engineering schooling, I was taught that for something to be worth doing it must benefit industry and profession, because if it benefits industry and profession it benefits society as a whole,” he explained. “This has been my life’s goal.”
In recognition of his achievements, earlier this week Bikash was elected to The UK Royal Academy of Engineering as a Fellow – the highest professional honor an engineer can receive in the UK.
Upon receiving the news of this recognition, Bikash said, “I am very pleased that our research on wind farm stabilization and state estimation has helped the electric power industry to develop tools and products that are in use in energy control centers in several countries. I am very grateful to my students and collaborators as I am to the Academy for this national honor for an engineer.”
Bikash continued, “If I am a success, it is only because of the right people I have met at the right time in my life – my teachers, family, and colleagues – who selflessly gave their advice to me. At every level of my schooling, I had good teachers who helped me and showed me the way to go. If they had not been there, I might have gone in other directions. But they were there, and I followed their advice.”
One mentor who played a pivotal role in Bikash’s life was his high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Biswaranjan Das Adhikary, who passed away unexpectedly in 2020 due to COVID-19. To honor his memory and legacy, Bikash founded the Kajalbabu Memorial Trust, an India-based charitable organization that provides educational opportunities for bright, underprivileged minds to succeed. Mr. Dipak Ranjan Pattanayak, Bikash’s retired Biology teacher, and Mr. Jugal Pradhan, the current Head Teacher of the school Bikash attended, lead the Trust on the ground as its President and Secretary, respectively. Of note, the Trust has been supported by more than 250 IEEE PES members from all over the world.
“As an organization, we especially focus on encouraging young girls to fulfill their potential and go to university,” he said. “I feel it is our duty to do this.”
Bikash’s involvement with IEEE PES began in 1998 with the acceptance of a transactions paper that was published in 2000, after which he became a “proper” member and has attended every general meeting from 2003 on. Since then, and in addition to his time as Vice President of Publications, he has published upwards of 150 technical papers in IEEE Transactions and IET journals; co-authored four books and four award-winning IEEE Task Force/Working Group reports; developed IEEE Benchmark Models for stability studies; acted as chair of an IEEE Working Group in state estimation for power distribution applications; been an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer of special lectures and tutorials in power system control and computation in more than 30 countries; held the role of Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Energy for six years; and was named a Fellow of IEEE for contributions to power system stability and control in 2012.
Bikash also sits on the Board of the IEEE Smart Village (ISV) which provides a unique approach to supporting the world’s energy-impoverished communities by offering a comprehensive solution combining renewable energy, community-based education, and entrepreneurial opportunities.
As Vice President of Publications, Bikash has led the delivery of plans to sustain growth in quality, impact, and annual revenue (currently about $9M) and offer leadership as a Governing Board member for the growth of the organization.
“As a leader in IEEE Publications, I believe it is my duty to listen to people and empower them to do what they are good at, not try to do everything myself,” he explained. “I am dedicated to inclusiveness and have appointed over 60 female power engineers to important publication roles since 2012. My actions have been based on my fair sense of equality, transparency, and impartiality. If I am meeting the needs of my people, they will be able to do their jobs that much better and the work will be a success.”
Even as he looks back, Bikash is excited about the future of power engineering and looks forward to continuing the kind of work he is most passionate about – furthering education and improving the lives of those who need it most. One such passion project involves a Royal Academy of Engineering, UK-funded collaborative effort with Dr. Stratis Batzelis of the University of Southampton, Dr. Thomas Joseph of Imperial College London, and the farming service company OORJA to implement a solar irrigation solution for marginal farmers in India that provides real-time data via an app that tells them in advance when their land will be irrigated by solar pump sets.
“I am passionate about power and energy and have seen a phenomenal transformation in the field over the course of my career,” he said. “From the time I was a boy, electricity has fascinated me, but I could never have dreamed of all that I have been able to do. Life has given me 100 times more than what I wished for. I remain grateful to all who led the way to where I am today.”