First Annual USAEE Energy Economics Case Competition

Eric Hittinger

Ass't. Prof., Rochester Institute of Technology

Chair, USAEE Case Competition Committee


As the former USAEE Student Representative, I have seen firsthand how important student programs are to the organization.  The USAEE leadership is constantly thinking about how to develop the next generation of energy economists, and USAEE has several programs dedicated to improving the student experience.  In order to complement the existing programs, such as the Best Student Paper Award, USAEE has initiated an annual energy economics Case Competition involving teams from some of the best universities in North America and culminating with a special concurrent session at the 31st USAEE/IAEE North American Conference in Austin, TX.


The Case Competition presents students with a realistic but fictional energy economics problem and has student teams acting as energy consultants.  The problem is designed to be realistically unstructured and open-ended and the competition is focused on students' ability to organize and analyze a complex issue.  This year's problem is about shale gas economics and alternative transportation fuels, and includes economic, policy, and technology issues.  The ability to work within small teams on interdisciplinary problems is an important skill in the modern energy workplace, and the USAEE Case Competition provides students an opportunity to exercise and demonstrate that skill.  The sponsors of the USAEE Case Competition represent a mixture of academic institutions focused on helping students learn these abilities (The Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, The Mosbacher Institute at Texas A&M, and The Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University) and energy companies that require these abilities now and in the future (Statoil and ConocoPhillips).


Over a dozen teams are participating from a variety of universities, including several top schools, such as Stanford, MIT, and Northwestern University.  The student teams have two weeks to work on their written responses before submitting them to a panel of senior USAEE members for evaluation.    From the written responses, three teams will be invited to present their solutions at a special concurrent session at the Austin Conference and compete for the top three positions.  I have no doubt that the judges will have a difficult time selecting three teams to present at the conference, but I am confident that the presentations in Austin will demonstrate impressive analytical and interdisciplinary abilities.

The Case Competition program allows USAEE to support the professional development of students and provides a platform for them to demonstrate their capabilities to potential employers.  The structure of the competition makes it less strictly academic, attracting a set of students that may not be engaged in formal research, and we believe that it highlights analytical skills that are of particular interest to delegates from government and industry.  Please join us for the USAEE Case Competition concurrent session in Austin, which promises to feature some impressive presentations from our student members.

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