Today as the accumulation of information grows exponentially and the pace of change quickens, history becomes even more important. That is because it is so easy to forget the precedents that lead us to where we are today amidst the explosion of data.

The Central Power Research Institute was established on the recommendations of the "Planning Committee for Power Engineering Research" headed by Prof. M. S. Thacker, the then Director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, which submitted its report in 1956. The committee stressed the need for taking up an effective programme of power research in the country. In the context of an expanding power supply industry and the growing quantum of manufacture of electrical equipment in the country, the committee recommended the setting up of a Power Research Institute at Bengaluru and a Switchgear Testing & Development Station at Bhopal under the charge of a Director. It envisaged the setting up of six divisions, namely High Voltage, Electrical Engineering, Hydraulic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Switchgear Testing and Administrative divisions.

Bengaluru was selected for the location of the institute in view of the availability of the laboratories of Indian Institute of Science. Similarly, the Switchgear Testing and Development Station was located at Bhopal as the Bharat Heavy Electricals' plant (erstwhile Heavy Electricals India Ltd.) was located there. The cost of both the projects was estimated at Rs. 4.20 crores.

Subsequently, a nucleus organization was set up under Shri S. Swayambu, Director, Central Water & Power Commission (CPWC) to work out the details of the project. In view of the observations of the Planning Commission, it was decided to set up a "POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE" in three stages as under:

First Stage-Formulation of a scheme for providing the necessary additional facilities for research at the Power Engineering Department of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, with a view to initiating a programme of research of urgent problems. Preparation of a scheme for the establishment of a Switchgear Testing Laboratory at Bhopal so as to bring into commission in the early part of the third Five Year Plan.

Second Stage-Drawing up of plans for Power Research on a long term basis at Bengaluru with separate laboratories with necessary equipment and other facilities.

First Stage of the Scheme UNDP Assistance

The nucleus organization headed by Shri Swayambu submitted a report on "The First Stage Scheme of the Power Research Institute at Bengaluru" in August, 1958. This scheme was oriented towards-maximum utilization of the facilities available in the Indian Institute of Science and provided for the procurement of only the minimum additional equipment, construction of necessary extensions to the existing buildings of the Indian Institute of Science and acquisition of land for the permanent institute buildings. Administrative approval and expenditure sanction for the scheme at an estimated cost of Rs.36.42 lakhs spread over a period of four years was accorded by the Government on 07.01.1960. Thus CPRI headed by a Director and as a subordinate office of the Central Electricity Authority (erstwhile Central Water & Power Commission (CPWC), which itself was an attached office of the Ministry of Energy, came into existence in 1960. The CPRI had two units- one at Bengaluru and the other at Bhopal named as "Switchgear Testing and Development Station". The government while considering the first stage of the scheme simultaneously sought assistance from the UNDP and posed the Scheme as proposed by the Planning Committee (under the Chairmanship of Prof.M.S.Thacker) to UNDP assistance in January 1959. The UNDP agreed to give assistance and a "Plan of Operations" agreement was signed by the Government of India UNDP and UNESCO in January 1960. The UNDP Assistance was limited to the supply of equipment for LT Short Circuit Laboratory, High Voltage impulse testing and equipment for insulation laboratory at Bengaluru and for setting up of Switchgear Testing and Development Station at Bhopal. The assistance also included services of experts and awarding of Fellowships to CPRI personnel for training abroad. The agreement provided for UNDP aid of $ 192,800 with an Indian counterpart contribution of Rs. 20,78,300. This estimate had to be revised later due to escalation in prices and the agreement was amended in September, 1969, providing for UNDP contribution of $2,738,773 and the Indian counterpart contribution of $3,061,758.

Modification to Stage I Scheme

The scope of the original first stage of the scheme, for which administrative approval and expenditure sanction had been accorded by the Government, required modifications in view of the agreement with the UNDP. The modifications covered inclusion of Switchgear Testing and Development Station at Bhopal, LT Switchgear Testing Laboratory, Partial Discharge Laboratory and Insulation Laboratory at Bengaluru. Acquisition of land, construction of an independent building and other civil works had also to be included. A revised sanction for Rs. 534.01 lakhs with was therefore obtained including these works.

The setting up of the CPRI Bengaluru was accomplished in 2 phases. In the first phase, the institute functioned in the premises of the Indian Institute of Science by utilizing their equipment and putting extensions to their buildings, while in the second phase, land was acquired and independent premises were put up in vicinity of IISc for the various laboratories. Though commenced in 1960, the completion of the total scheme under Stage-I could be achieved only in 1971. The institute started functioning in the new campus in 1971. The institute was assisted by Mr. N. Parkman of ERA (UK), consultant to UNDP, during its formative years. The Switchgear Testing and Development Station at Bhopal was set up on 40 acres of land acquired from the Madhya Pradesh Government adjoining BHEL.

Stage II Scheme

Proposals were submitted to Government for sanctioning CPRI Stage II Scheme. The scheme envisaged adding facilities like power frequency testing, pollution studies and impulse current facilities at the High Voltage Laboratory. The scheme was sanctioned at an outlay of Rs. 152.40 lakhs in 1976. Under this scheme all the laboratories hither to functioning in the premises of IISc were shifted to the existing premises in 1979.

In pursuance of its policy decision, the Government of India set up a committee under the chairmanship of Shri K.B. Rao to review the working of Central Power Research Institute in 1974. The objectives of the committee was to put forth suggestions & measures for strengthening the organization in the context of massive power development programmes under way in the country during that period. After in-depth study and discussions with various organizations, the committee submitted its report in June 1975. One of the major recommendations of the committee was related to the organizational restructuring of CPRI into autonomous organization. The recommendations of the Rao's committee was accepted by the Government of India and CPRI was declared Autonomous body on 16th January 1978. It was recognized as an autonomous society under Ministry of Power, Government of India. The CPRI on reconstitution as a Registered Society from January 1978, is under the management of a Governing Council of which the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Power is the President. The 14 member Governing Council was formed comprising representatives drawn from Union Ministry of Power, Finance and Industry, Central Electricity Authority, State Electricity Boards and Academic Institutions. The council appointed a Standing Committee (Administrative and Financial Matters) and two technical committees, one on Testing & Certification and the other on Research to advise on various topics connected with the development of the Institute.

Plan Schemes and Five year Plans

The institute came into existence during the Second Five Year Plan with an initial sanction of Rs. 36.42 lakhs which included recurring expenditure of the institute for four years. By the time the First Stage of the project got completed in the middle of Fourth Five Year Plan, this amount was revised to Rs. 534.01 lakhs, which comprised of Rs. 143.40 lakhs as developmental aid received from UNESCO under UNDP. During Fifth Five Year Plan, the institute received capital grants of Rs. 152.40 lakhs for augmenting the four laboratories at Bengaluru. During the Sixth Plan period several important projects were sanctioned by Government of India, notable among them was the setting up of 2500 MVA Short Circuit Testing with Synthetic Test Facility at High Power Laboratory and Establishment of Materials Technology Division at Bengaluru during 1992. Several units of the institute were established during the Seventh Five Year Plan period. To study the suitability of using higher transmission voltage of the level of 1000kV, an experimental line project at Ultra High Voltage was set up at Hyderabad at a cost of Rs. 2645 lakhs in August 1993. To study the problems related to Thermal Power Stations, a laboratory was set up near Koradi-Nagpur at a cost of Rs. 1718.17 lakhs during 1993.

To help the electrical industry in the Northern belt of India, the Government sanctioned setting up of Regional Testing Laboratory at Muradnagar near New Delhi at cost of Rs. 636 lakhs which was recently relocated to NOIDA in the Delhi capital region during June 2009 at an investment of Rs.10.17 lakhs. In the Eighth Plan priority was given for augmentation and modernization of five laboratories High Voltage, Insulation, Materials Technology and Short Circuit laboratory in Bengaluru and STDS at Bhopal. This was necessitated by the continuous revision of national / International standards and advancement in measuring techniques.

The Government sanctioned an Equipment Vibration Centre project in the Ninth Five Year Plan at Bengaluru for seismic qualification of Electrical and other equipment used in Earthquake prone areas. This has assumed importance as more and more of the power projects are getting located in the earthquake prone regions of India. The center was operationalised during 2003.

The Regional Testing Laboratory, Kolkata was established with the co-operation of WBSEB during September 2006 to provide service in transformer dielectric evaluation.

A Regional Testing Laboratory was also established in July 2007 at Guwahati with the objective of catering to the testing needs of Power Utilities and manufacturers of the North Eastern region.

Visionary Leaders

Name: Shri. B A Sawale
Designation: Director General
Duration : May 2023 - Till Date
Name: Asit Singh
Designation: Director General - AC
Duration : Dec. 2022 - April 2023
Name: V.S Nandakumar
Designation: Director General
Duration : Sept. 2016 - Nov. 2022
Name: Sudhakar R Bhat
Designation: Director General
Duration : March 2015 - Sept. 2016
Name: N. Murugesan
Designation: Director General
Duration : March 2010 - March 2015
Name: V. Ramakrishna
Designation: Director General
Duration : Jan. 2010 - March 2010
Name: P.K. Kognolkar
Designation: Director General-IC
Duration : July 2008 - Dec.2009
Name: A.K. Tripathy
Designation: Director General
Duration : May 2004 - April 2008
Name: Santosh Kumar
Designation: Director General
Duration : Sept.2003 - May 2004
Name: Dr. Channakeshava
Designation: Director General-IC
Duration : July 2003 - August 2003
Name: Dr. Sachchidanand
Designation: Director General
Duration : July 2002 - July 2003
Name: Dr. B.S.K. Naidu
Designation: Director General
Duration : Nov.2000 - July 2002
Name: K.N.S. Murthy
Designation: Director General-IC
Duration : Sept.2000 - Oct.2000
Name: M.K.G. Pillai
Designation: Director General
Duration : June1995 - August 2000
Name: S. Ananthakrishnan
Designation: Director General-IC
Duration : Nov.1994 – June 1995
Name: Dr. M. Ramamoorty
Designation: Director General
Duration : Dec.1983 – Oct.1994
Name: C.S. Sreenivasan
Designation: Director
Duration : 1980 - 1983
Name: V.R. Narasimhan
Designation: Director
Duration : 1974 - 1980
Name: H.R. Kulkarni
Designation: Director
Duration : 1973 - 1974
Name: D.P. Ganguly
Designation: Director
Duration : 1969 - 1972
Name: S.N. Vinze
Designation: Director
Duration : 1968-1969
Name: A.P. Seethapathy
Designation: Director
Duration : 1963 - 1968
Name: S. Swayambu
Designation: Director
Duration : 1960 - 1963