Shortly after World War I, Scotsman Daniel Dunlop (left), a visionary working in the British electricity industry, decided to bring together leading energy experts for a World Power Conference to discuss current and emerging energy issues. In 1923, he began working with countries around the globe to establish national committees that would stimulate attendance and prepare for technical participation at such a conference.
The First World Power Conference was held the next year, 1924, in London and attracted 1,700 delegates from 40 countries. The meeting was so successful that those attending decided to establish a permanent organisation to continue the dialogue begun at the conference.
On July 11, 1924, the World Power Conference was formally established. National Member Committees formed the core of the organisation, an International Executive Council (IEC) was established to act as the governing body, and a set of Objects was adopted to guide the organisation's work. Daniel Dunlop was appointed Chairman. In 1928, Charles Gray (left) became Secretary of the IEC. He was to hold that position for nearly 40 years, until 1965, when Eric Ruttley took over the post. The title and role of the position evolved over the years into what is today the position of WEC Secretary General.
The Objects were modified in 1958 and again in 1968, at the Conference in Moscow, when the organisation's name was changed to the World Energy Conference. The new title provided a more accurate description of the organisation's focus on the entire spectrum of energy. Shortly thereafter, the annual meeting of the World Energy Conference (WEC) became known as the 'Congress' to differentiate the annual event from the parent organisation.
In 1978, a special WEC Conservation Commission published a seminal report, World Energy: Looking Ahead to 2020, which was a comprehensive examination of the global energy scene, bringing together market economy countries, centrally planned economies and developing countries. This report was widely read and formed a starting point for many of WEC's future reports, studies, and activities.
In 1981, the IEC agreed that the triennial Conference would henceforth be designated as the "Triennial Congress".
At the 1986 Congress, held in Cannes, France, a new feature, the Technical Exhibition, consisting mainly of energy supply equipment, was introduced. The Exhibition met with such a high degree of success that it became a regular part of the following Congresses.
Also at the Cannes Congress, Eric Ruttley (left) resigned as Secretary General of WEC after steering the organisation through two decades of extraordinary changes. He was succeeded by Ian Lindsay, who came to WEC with over 30 years' experience in the oil industry. Over the next decade, Lindsay was to continue Ruttley's success in increasing WEC's membership, authority, and influence.
In 1989, WEC published another landmark report, Global Energy Perspectives 2000-2020. This report was an important consensus based on two global energy scenarios, one moderate and one more conservative. The report gained worldwide attention and was used by many policymakers and decision-makers as they considered the future.
At the 1989 Montreal Congress, based on the success of the Global Energy Perspectives report, WEC decided to undertake an ambitious new study, Energy for Tomorrow's World: Realities, Real Options, The Agenda for Achievement. The new study would serve as the main focus and underpinning for the 1992 Congress in Madrid. A special Commission Board convened a small team of high-level energy specialists lent by five Member Committees to draft the study report. After much effort, the report was finally published in 1993.
In the three years leading up to the 1992 Madrid Congress, WEC reorganised its finances to increase substantially the annual subscriptions it charged its members. The more robust financial picture enabled WEC to support expanded programmes and services for its membership, which had swelled to nearly 100 countries. A special WEC Foundation was also set up to help fund the work of WEC, with 24 Member Committees and several outside organisations contributing nearly £1.2 million. The organisation also changed its name to the World Energy Council, and the International Executive Council was renamed the Executive Assembly.
In December, 1997, WEC Secretary General Ian Lindsay (left) became seriously ill and died unexpectedly the following spring. He was deeply mourned. His 12-year tenure of service and his significant contribution to WEC's growth and its increasing importance on the world energy scene were recognised during the first session of the Executive Assembly at the Houston Congress. After an international search, Gerald Doucet (below, right), President and CEO of the Canadian Gas Association, was selected as WEC's new Secretary General.
Also at the Houston Congress, WEC's Global Energy Information System (GEIS), an Internet-based, value-added information service, was introduced. GEIS has become a significant benefit of WEC membership and an important interactive communication tool for members as well as a way to publicise WEC and its work to the world at large.
In 2000, WEC published another landmark report, Energy for Tomorrow's World - Acting Now!, which re-examined the premises and conclusions of the 1993 Energy for Tomorrow's World. Nearly 20,000 copies of the report were distributed to WEC members, energy leaders, government officials, and the media.
In 2001, a major step forward was taken when WEC was incorporated as a charity limited by guarantee under UK law. Mr. Doucet led WEC for ten years, during which his strong and visionary leadership, fresh ideas, exuberant enthusiasm and deep commitment resulted in a number of significant and notable changes in the organisation, increasing its visibility at the global level and building its reputation as the voice of the energy industry. Sadly, in October, 2008, Gerald Doucet passed away after a short illness.
His successor Dr Christoph Frei was appointed early in 2009. He served before for the World Economic Forum.