ETFA 2020 was the first hybrid conference in the series of the IEEE IES conferences. It could be attended onsite in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering rooms at TU Wien with high COVID-19 safety measures, whereby the onsite attendees were mainly from Central Europe. Furthermore, it was possible for all attendees to access the conference online via Zoom and allowed them to join the various technical tracks’ presentations and discussions.

For Valentin Bauer ETFA 2020 was the first conference attendance. Valentin himself was honored to present the paper Prosumer and Demand-Side Management Impact on Rural Communities’ Energy Balance and give his first presentation at a scientific conference. In the course of ETFA 2020 Gerald Franzl presented the work in progress paper entitled Initiating an IES based Technical Framework on Local Energy Communities in the WIP02, WIP03 on-site session on industrial communication systems. Many interesting topics were presented in the sessions, ranging from industrial robotic systems and time sensitive networking strategies to image recognition in industrial processes. Our personal highlights were the very well presented hands-on tutorials on Deep Learning and Niki Popper’s keynote on modeling the COVID-19 situation in Austria.

Participating in the conference was definitely an exciting experience. On site, the participants could by chance stumble into each other during breaks and social events, having a shallow chat and unintentional identified common interests, despite the well-executed COVID-19 measures. The remote participants could interact in the discussions following the presentations nearly as if present in the same room, aside from some well-known obstacles of online meetings, thanks to the local organisation team. As first-time attendees, Gerald and Valentin experienced being welcome ‘strangers’ to the established community and felt honored to be a contributing part of ETFA 2020.

The actual size of ETFA was a little vague, onsite it felt like a cozy single-track event, and the many parallel sessions seemed to be caused by COVID-19 prevention only. Looking at the number of papers and the participants that registered online clearly tells a different story. Given the situation in that the event took place, ETFA 2020 was a success and a shining exception for not having been transferred into fully digital. For next year’s ETFA 2021 we look forward to physically travel to Sweden and to get the full impression of the ETFA conference as it used to be without COVID-19 restrictions.