Resolving the reactive power question

TitleResolving the reactive power question
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsHarold Kirkham, Alexander Emanuel, Mihaela Albu, David Laverty
Conference Name2019 IEEE International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference (I2MTC)
Conference LocationAuckland, New Zealand

The definition and measurement of reactive power has been the subject of a sometimes acrimonious debate. In this paper, a number of factors leading to the present situation are exposed by reviewing the history of the matter. The contributions of Poynting (1884), Steinmetz (1892), Lyon (1920) and Budeanu (1927) are examined. It is shown that much of the debate about reactive power is founded on two fundamental and yet unrecognized mistakes made over a hundred years ago. Further debate is unwarranted because of those early mistakes, and because in the light of modern measurement theory, the character and meaning of the measurement is changed. Reactive power has been and continues to be a useful concept, its definition matters: the automation of the power system demands a solution. Some suggestions are offered.