Carnegie Mellon University
June 21, 2018

Students Participate in Columbia Energy Case Competition

The Columbia Energy Symposium 2018 was held on February 1-2 in New York City. The EST&P team of Kanchan Upadhyay, Idoan Marciano Mula Tua, and Ankit Kalanki, all with disciplinary concentrations in Engineering and Public Policy, participated in the case study competition at the symposium. In the competition, the team had to first develop a brief business case for implementing a “Community Solar” project for a fictional city, focusing on its benefits over rooftop PV. On the basis of the brief business cases, 14 teams were selected to develop and present full business cases at the symposium.

The topic for the 2018 full case competition was “Designing a microgrid to improve reliability and resiliency of the power system for a fictional city.” The team had to develop a techno-economic proposal for the municipal city council showcasing: feasible technologies (such as CHP, solar PV, etc), benefit-cost analyses, financing mechanisms, and strategies for stakeholder engagement. The team also had to address the safety requirements arising from the interconnection of a microgrid with the macrogrid. After the first round of presentations, five teams were selected as finalists. These five teams were provided with disruptive information and had to present, in two hours, how they would address the disruption. The presentations were judged by an experienced panel composed of professionals from Booz Allen Hamilton, NRG Energy, Tesla, and Brooks Energy.

In preparing for the competition, the team said they built off their EST&P background. They used HOMER Pro software to model the different Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and to identify the optimum capacity solution; they learned HOMER Pro in the EST&P core course “39-613 Energy Transport and Storage.” The team undertook extensive financial analyses and developed a benefit-cost model, skills they learned in the course “12-706 Civil Systems Investment Planning and Pricing.” 

The team engaged with participants from several other top US universities and with the distinguished panel of judges. They thought their biggest reward for participating was the experiential learning gained by interacting with and observing peers of different backgrounds creatively propose solutions to the same issue. They also attended a career fair and several panel discussions during the symposium. The team said their experience throughout this competition was "enriching" and that they had "great opportunities" to learn about Energy topics and to network with the experts in the field. They "strongly encourage" EST&P students to participate in similar competitions and symposia.