Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dr. Roy Billinton (DSc) in a Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering lab in the University of Saskatchewan's College of Engineering. (Photo: Donella Hoffman)

USask’s Billinton honoured for lifetime achievement

When Roy Billinton was 16, he arrived in Canada with his father and began working as an apprentice electrician. At night, he studied to get his Grade 12 diploma so he could go on to university.

Billinton’s mother and the rest of his family arrived in Canada a year later and he ultimately achieved his goal of attending university, earning the bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering that became the foundation of his remarkable career.

Dr. Billinton (DSc), a University of Saskatchewan (USask) distinguished professor emeritus, is recognized as a pioneer in power system reliability engineering. The book he published in 1970 is considered to be the first book in English on the subject. In total he authored or co-authored 10 books and more than 975 technical papers. He has a Google Scholar h–index of 91—which is considered exceptional—with more than 42,000 citations.

“He’s a major figure in power systems engineering who’s known worldwide. He pioneered the field and set the standards,” said Dr. Safa Kasap (DSc), Billinton’s longtime colleague in the USask Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

In his area of research—power system reliability, economics and performance—Billinton developed a range of techniques to evaluate the reliability of engineering systems including large electric power generation, transmission and distribution systems.

Billinton’s impact on his field was recently recognized when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power & Energy Society. The occasion became even more memorable as Billinton and his wife Joyce celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary at the award ceremony in Atlanta.

“I have always been excited about the work I was doing. We created and developed many concepts and techniques that advanced power system reliability,” said Billinton, whose quiet, courteous presence belies his larger-than-life reputation.

Billinton earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Manitoba and PhD and DSc degrees from USask. But before beginning his career at the university, he spent four years at Manitoba Hydro, gaining valuable experience that he said provided him with the vision to blend the theoretical and the practical.

When Billinton joined USask in 1964 he was tasked with establishing the Power Systems Research Group. It soon gained an international reputation and more than 55 years later, Billinton, now 84, is still an active member, attending on-campus meetings and staying busy in his home office.

He recalls with satisfaction and pride the work he did beyond the university—consulting with many large utility providers in North America and abroad—reaching out to exchange knowledge and ideas decades before boundless collaboration was a commitment in the university’s strategic plan.

“My work and travel enabled me to meet many other people in the reliability world and develop lasting relationships,” he said.

In all, Billinton delivered presentations or courses in 42 countries, along with 100-plus short courses to electric power utilities, flying more than a million airline miles in the process.

He did this work while making considerable contributions to teaching and learning at the engineering college, supervising more than 135 graduate students. He also served as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering; associate dean responsible for graduate studies, research and extension; assistant dean; and acting dean.

Reflecting on his career and the lifetime achievement award, Billinton, though pleased with the recognition, offers a typically understated response: “It’s a nice way to finish up.”

For more on Billinton, please see: https://engineering.usask.ca/people/ece/Billinton,Roy.php

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