3rd Annual USAEE Case Competition

(To be held at the forthcoming IAEE International Conference in New York City.)

Eric Hittinger
Chair, USAEE Case Competition Committee
Asst. Prof., Public Policy, Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY

Dr. Hittinger with the winning team of the 2nd Annual USAEE Case Competition - Michael Craig, Michael Davidson and Ashwini Bharatkumar (not pictured: Daniel Cross-Call) from MIT - at last year's USAEE North American Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. 

Developing the capabilities of student members is an important part of the USAEE mission.  And it is clear from the many student programs and the high student attendance rates at conferences that USAEE is serious about this effort.  The USAEE Case Competition builds on the existing student programs, providing another venue for students to both contribute solutions to challenging energy economics problems and participate in the annual conference.  In contrast with the more academically-oriented Best Paper Award, the Case Competition was created to allow students interested in industry or consulting careers to exercise and showcase their analytic capabilities. 

The USAEE Case Competition is a team-based competition focused on realistic energy economics questions, open to teams of current students or recent graduates.  It is designed to challenge the skills required of an energy economist employed in industry or consulting: working with a team within a limited time frame, extracting and investigating the relevant details from a complex issue offering limited data, and presenting your analysis in a succinct format.  A complete solution to the Case Competition problem requires teams to have some knowledge of engineering and policy analysis, in addition to economics.  To ensure that the problem is realistic, we develop the problem with the help of sponsors and USAEE industry members.  This allows us to identify and craft a question that simulates an important current issue in the energy industry in a way that is challenging and engaging for participants.

Student teams are assigned the role of consultants and are given a tasking memo along with several hundred pages of associated documentation (reports, news articles, raw data, and academic papers).  They are given three weeks to return a 20 page report summarizing their analysis and conclusions.  A panel of judges assesses each paper and three teams are selected to present their results at a special concurrent session during the annual conference.

Each year an entirely new question is created.  The last two years saw questions about how to quickly raise demand for natural gas in Pennsylvania and the effect that electric vehicles will have on an urban California electricity distribution company.  This year, the topic for the competition is financial mechanisms for international improvements in energy intensity.  In addition to addressing an important topic, this question was chosen to fit the financial and international themes of the New York City conference and the primary sponsor of the Case Competition, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC).  Teams were asked to design a mechanism that would balance important elements such as return on investment, political acceptability, access to capital, and environmental benefit.  To answer this question, teams will need more than just financial knowledge.  A complete solution will require an estimate of the potential market for efficiency investments, an analysis of potential investors, and an investigation into environmental subsidies. 

Forty-two students on thirteen teams participated in this year's competition, representing some of the best universities from around the world. These teams will be presenting their analysis at an open concurrent session at the New York City Conference, which we hope you will attend.  It should be an exciting session, with the teams competing for the top three prizes of $4,000 for the first place team, $3,000 for second place, and $2,000 for third.  This is an event where attendees can hear some fresh ideas about financing energy efficiency and potential employers can observe the analytic and presentation skills of the next generation of energy economists.

This year's USAEE Case Competition is sponsored by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, and the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University.  The Case Competition is an annual program, and we are always looking for potential sponsors and interesting problems for future years.  



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