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This paper presents the comparative evaluation of the performance of two control techniques to determine the reference current for a three phase shunt active power filter (APF) in order to improve the power quality and compensate reactive power required by nonlinear load. The first one is based on the use of classic PI controller and the second one is based on instantaneous power theory (p-q theory). Both control techniques are based on time domain, simulated with Matlab/Simulink and validated with an experimental test bench developed in the LAII laboratory, University of Poitiers. Various simulation and experimental results are presented under steady state and transient conditions with a comparison between the two control techniques.