Carnegie Mellon University
May 22, 2019

Graduate Course Shines Light on Energy Market Opportunities

By Jessica Keast

Amanda King
  • Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation
  • 412-268-6741

A new mini-course energized graduate students in Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business to learn about the challenges of the modern electricity market.

The course, "Management in Electric Power Systems & Electricity Markets," was taught by Panayiotis Moutis, a systems scientist at CMU's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation. Students learn about topics such as electricity market deregulation and the streams of profits and savings in electric power systems.

"The course helps students understand the roles of the major entities in electricity markets such as operators, regulators and customers," Moutis said. "It offers students a concise, current and progressive point of view and a basic overview of important stakeholder relationships and interactions."

The class culminated in a final project that asked students to tackle one of six real-world problems posed by industry experts and academics. Students had to imagine what duties they might be expected to perform as a project manager.

"For example," Moutis explained, "if you want to build a solar plant, you need to know what the standards are for the equipment, what you will be paid and how the actual systems will affect the market."

He said he wants students to imagine how they might position themselves in relation to the client as a leader in the field.

Students are evaluated based on how they interact with any problems that arise during the project and how well they can convince operators to invest in their proposed solutions. Students presented their solutions to Moutis, classmates and industry volunteers.

MBA student Nicholas Alexander described Moutis' course as "one of those rare classes that intertwines business management principles with the technical operations to deliver a multi-disciplinary study of the subject."

Alexander, who is on the Energy Business track, added he "appreciated the opportunity this course provided for the cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives between the College of Engineering and Tepper."

Alexander's background is in wind energy manufacturing. As a result, he said he found the course coverage of transmission infrastructure network optimization and locational marginal pricing to be informative and helped him understand what happens to power downstream in the system.

For his final project, Alexander undertook how independent power producers can increase the long-term profitability of wind projects through exercising market power in the form of Corporate Power Purchase Agreements. Moutis said all of the students including Alexander pitched strong solutions for their individual challenges, and all projects were met with positive feedback.

Poorna Mujumdar, a master's student in the Energy Science, Technology and Policy program, took Moutis' course. She will be interning this summer with ICF, a management consulting company, on its Commercial Electricity Markets team.

"Panos' course played a direct role in helping me crack my interviews, given the similarity between my role in the internship and the syllabus of the course," Mujumdar said.

Moutis said the students' stellar performance has raised the bar for future offerings of the course, which he plans to revamp to be even more interactive and stimulate deeper discussion.

This class was just one of two mini-courses that Moutis taught this spring. The other, 'Steady State Operation & Economic Management,' focused on how the electricity markets are formulated and operated while minimizing the cost of planning and operation; it will be offered again in Fall 2019 as 'Optimization Applications in Power Systems.'

Tepper will offer 'Management in Electric Power Systems & Electricity Markets' again during the first half of the Spring 2020 semester as a "Mini 3" course.

Outside of the classroom, Moutis' current work at the Scott Institute involves the development and demonstration of a distributed, agent-based control system to integrate smart inverters, energy storage and commercial off-the-shelf home automation controllers and smart thermostats.

Carnegie Mellon University is committed to educating, empowering and aligning its community around the world to address the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, which aim to create a more peaceful, prosperous planet with just and inclusive societies. Recognizing the critical contributions that universities are making through education, research and practice, CMU publicly committed to undertaking a Voluntary University Review of the Global Goals. The 17 Global Goals cover wide-ranging issues, including reducing violence, ending extreme poverty, promoting equitable education, fighting inequality and injustice, advancing economic growth and decent work, and preventing the harmful effects of climate change by 2030.

The preceding story demonstrates CMU's work toward attaining Global Goals 7 and 12.