Governance of electrotechnical standardisation in Europe

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This report provides recommendations about the governance of electrotechnical standardisation in Europe to seven independent National Committees: DKE (Germany), Electrosuisse (Switzerland), OVE (Austria), NEC (the Netherlands), NEK (Norway), SEK (Sweden), and SESKO (Finland). It answers the following questions: 1. How can formal standardisation be organised so that it enables industry to have optimal impact with minimal effort, without compromising reasonable participation and influence by other stakeholder groups? 2. Does CENELEC have any added value as a separate European standardisation organisation next to CEN and ETSI? 3. How can it be ensured that industry defines market relevance of standardisation projects? The researcher first interviewed the general directors of these NCs and listened to their concerns. These concerns were then analysed using some additional interviews, professional and scientific literature, and the researcher’s own experience. Problems as perceived by the seven electrotechnical NCs include: • Concerns whether industry, the main stakeholder in electrotechnical standardisation, can remain in the lead for both technical and for governance issues. • Concerns that current governance directs most of its attention at the European level of standardisation, whereas the international level is far more important for industry. • Concerns about the increasing influence of the European Commission and the decreasing influence of industry. • Concerns about the complex governance structure of CENELEC and its counterpart CEN. • Concerns about further integration of CENELEC and CEN, which brings more ‘political’ (non-technical) and European (non-international) issues to CENELEC agenda, leads to a decrease in the influence of the electrotechnical industry on policy, and results in sub-optimal solutions for the electrotechnical sector. • Dissatisfaction with CEN CENELEC Management Centre that is supportive in regular technical work, but insufficiently supportive in governance-related issues and sometimes putting the wrong emphasis. • Difficulty to align with newer CENELEC members from Central, Eastern and partly Southern Europe which tend to have less involvement of the electrotechnical industry and have a different culture, which leads to differences in input in CENELEC. • Bureaucracy: the huge number of governance-related committees and working groups which leads to vast numbers of meetings and documents and puts a huge administrative burden on NCs. Other interviews, industry position papers , and internal CENELEC documents confirm the relevance of these issues, but one specifically appears to be up for discussion: the wish to focus on the international level. Indeed, this is the natural level for industry, in combination with the national level. The European level is an artificial level for political reasons. But it is a reality. Standards have contributed to the single European market without barriers to trade. Standards are relevant for policy areas as well, such as sustainability and the digital agenda. Because CENELEC prefers to focus on rubberstamping international standards, the European Commission largely determines the European agenda and as a result, industry is no longer in the lead and may feel pressurised to participate in committees they would not have chosen themselves. Meanwhile the agenda of governance-related committees is overwhelmed by European issues, sometimes also related to politics. CENELEC, its sister organisation CEN, and their common secretariat CCMC have responded by creating even more committees, which generate new documents. As a result, the system is bogged down by bureaucracy and is no longer effective. In order to improve the situation, CENELEC, CEN, their members and CCMC have focused on more efficiency, but as will be explained in this report, this makes the situation worse instead of better because it draws attention to internal issues while the external environment requires more effectiveness. An ‘escape’ is needed and two scenarios have been designed. Scenario A is in line with the wishes of the independent NCs: a focus on alignment with IEC. Scenario B advocates a more proactive European role. In both scenarios, the overload of committees and working groups is stopped simply by dismantling most of them. Although they may be important, they hinder more important work. Their work should stop or be (partly) taken over by the secretariat. In Scenario A, the focus shifts further to the international level by aligning European structures and meetings with international ones and by putting the European Commission at a distance. Standardisation requests are no longer honoured, the default answer to these requests is ‘no’. Compared to the current situation, CENELEC becomes leaner, industry can focus on technical standardisation issues, and the administrative workload of NCs is reduced considerably. It requires a more pro-active role of the secretariat. If CCMC is not prepared to play this role, then a move to another secretariat can be considered. However, this scenario more or less ignores European issues, and the default rejection of standardisation requests is not realistic. The focus on IEC leads to less rather than more integration between CENELEC and CEN, which may be beneficial for the electrotechnical industry but not necessarily for CEN and CENELEC members, particularly those members from countries that have a limited electrotechnical industry and thus hardly have any involvement in IEC. In Scenario B, the needs in the European market get more priority. The market for electrotechnical components and products is global, but the market for systems in which these are applied can be global, European, national, or even local. In these systems, electrotechnology is interwoven with ICT, other technologies, and services. In Scenario B, CENELEC takes a forerunner role in developing architectures of standards for such systems. It develops the electrotechnical standards themselves in cooperation with IEC, while leaving the remaining standards to other standards setting bodies, including ETSI and CEN. In this scenario, CENELEC cooperates with the European Commission but in a different way than it currently does – next to it, not under it. The proactive role requires a proactive secretariat that is knowledgeable in the art of systems-related standardisation. CCMC, in its current shape, is not in a position to play this role. Many conveners of committees and standardisation officers at the national level need additional education to enable them to lead and support this more sophisticated form of standardisation. In this scenario, CENELEC remains independent from CEN, 1) because of this sophisticated character, 2) to allow industry to be in the lead, 3) because of its relation to IEC, and 4) to ensure an external focus. However, if CEN moves in a similar direction, more integration between CEN and CENELEC makes sense at a later stage – the historical reasons for having separate organisations disappear due to the integration of technologies and markets. First feedback suggests that most NCs involved in this project are not prepared to play a more active role in Europe and therefore prefer Scenario A. However, because its weaknesses, a third scenario has been developed that starts as an improved version of Scenario A and then moves in the direction of Scenario B. CENELEC’s purpose would be to develop, approve and disseminate trustworthy and sound standards in the field of electrotechnology, relevant for stakeholders in Europe. In this growth scenario, CENELEC would start with a pilot project of system-related standardisation.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationRotterdam
PublisherRotterdam School of Management (RSM), EUR
Number of pages78
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Study on request of the electrotechnical standardisation organisations DKE (Germany), Electrosuisse (Switzerland), OVE (Austria), NEC (the Netherlands), NEK (Norway), SEK (Sweden), and SESKO (Finland).

Research programs

  • EUR ESE 32


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