IEC has new Executive Secretary for IECEE and IECRE Conformity Assessment Systems

Interview with Wolfram Zeitz

Wolfram Zeitz took up his new role in January 2020 as Executive Secretary for IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components and IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications.

Wolfram Zeitz, Executive Secretary for IECEE and IECRE
Wolfram Zeitz, Executive Secretary for IECEE and IECRE

With a background in electrotechnical engineering, Zeitz has almost 20 years of experience in testing and certification for product safety of diverse electrical and mechanical products. He has been involved in the IECEE CB scheme from the outset of his career, as an IECEE CB Certifier and IECEE Technical Assessor.

Zeitz has profound knowledge and practical experience on laboratory management systems based on ISO/IEC 17025, which covers general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories, and ISO/IEC 17065 which covers conformity assessment requirements for bodies certifying products, processes and services within the IECEE CB Scheme. He also brings expertise in ionization radiation, laser radiation and lightning protection. 

e-tech spoke with Zeitz about his new role and vision for 2020.

What do you hope to achieve for IECEE this year?

IECEE is a well-oiled system with few operational issues, however, one task for this year is to prepare for the future. Several system relevant positions will have changes in leadership, including the Chair of our Peer Assessment Committee and two Policy and Strategy Co-chairs. We are also starting to look for candidates for the new Chair of IECEE for 2022, to enable the prior year-long hand over.

How are innovative technologies impacting certification?

The number of connected and smart appliances, devices and systems is growing. In the area of cyber security, we have implemented the IECEE cyber security certification programme and issued some certificates already, but there is still a lot of ground to cover. One major challenge is that some regions do not see the need to have a scheme that is valid worldwide; they prefer regional and national schemes. This is a challenge for global manufacturers, who sell their products around the world, and won’t benefit from a regional/national-only solution as much as they would from a truly international solution. We’ll need to ensure our governmental stakeholders are aware that international solutions are needed.

The digitalization and the progressing interconnectivity of industrial and personal appliances provides new opportunities as well. IECEE is looking into more and more potential conformity assessment services related to networks, such as Time Sensitive Networks, and communication and radio aspects of connected appliances.

Are there any challenges?

Some of the areas we cover are considered horizontal topics, like cyber security, functional safety and in the future, artificial intelligence, which need to be addressed for many products, systems and services.

IECEE covers 23 electrical equipment product categories for which some 70 technical committees develop the standards we use in our different certification schemes. In our view, there is a very strong need for the standardization side to keep horizontal topics on a horizontal level. In other words, develop standards covering a horizontal topic rather than applying and implementing the standard in slightly different ways in the vertical silos.

We need the Standardization Management Board (SMB) to give clear guidance to TCs that horizontal topics can be referenced in standards, which are vertical, but they should not reinvent the wheel.

What are the overall goals for IECRE?

We have made some changes which have allowed us to achieve stability, so we will continue the work we have started. We have also changed our overall structure which I feel brings more clarity. We have moved away from operational management committees for each of the three RE sectors, to one decision-making authority, which is the management committee meeting of the overall membership (REMC). The result is less administration work for the secretariat so we can save costs as the system grows, by reducing the effort we must spend. We still need to update system documents in line with this structural change which is an urgent task for this year.
We have also welcomed our new Chair, Alistair Mackinnon, whom we are supporting as he learns the ropes.

What will the main focus be for each renewable energy sector?

The three sectors are at different maturity levels.

Wind energy

The wind energy sector has successfully managed the transition phase between old conformity assessment documents and certificates based on the already withdrawn IEC 61400-22:2010, into reports and certificates issued based on the rules and processes of the IECRE Conformity Assessment System. We can see an increasing number of test reports and certificates issued under the IECRE system. At the same time the wind sector is including various new competence areas into the system to offer the industry a broader portfolio of tested and certified aspect. One of the latest competence areas, which has been very successfully launched, is blade testing. I can testify first-hand, it’s more than impressive to see a test facility performing tests on huge wind turbine blades. In summary it can be said that the wind sector is truly operational with a positive response from the market, and we are steadily increasing our portfolio of offered services.

Marine energy

This sector is driven by a lot of research and development activities and is still operating on the level of technical specifications, so the mid-term goal will also be to implement standards once they are published. Another target is to implement recognized test laboratories and certification bodies and to offer conformity assessment solutions to the market soon.

Solar PV energy

This sector presents an entirely different situation. The current deliverables need to be rethought to better fit market needs. We defined them to include many mandatory elements rather than having more flexibility for optional elements. In reality, our CBs and inspection bodies often find that their clients only need parts and step by step, rather than the whole package at once. The PV sector is now in the process of redefining the deliverables, which will take time. The challenge will be where to split it into parts, what will the interfaces be, and once this has been decided, we will have to rewrite the operational documents describing them.