Two Wins in Two Weeks

Two Wins in Two Weeks

UCLA Anderson students take first place in back-to-back clean energy case competitions
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Alex Wolfson (’23) and his Anderson teammates swept two clean energy case competitions in two weeks

  • A UCLA Anderson MBA team combined their interests in clean energy technology for the University of Michigan Ross School of Business Renewable Energy Case Competition
  • As engineers, general managers, financial analysts and consultants, they supplemented existing skill sets with effective marketing skills they learned at Anderson
  • Before they knew how they’d fare in one competition, they entered another — and swept first place in both

“Third place … second place … first place, UCLA Anderson!” And the Slack channel goes wild!

We’d done it again. Somehow, our team had won first place in two different national case competitions, just two weeks apart. One celebratory dinner later, we had a chance to reflect on our whirlwind experience.

Team Input 2 — Felipe Carpentier (’23), Jon Sdao (’23), Victor Tran (’23), Kevin Wikholm (’22) and I — met through Anderson’s Energy and Clean Tech Association and the energy industry Anderson Career Team (ACT). United by our common interest in clean energy and clean technology, we formed our team to enter the University of Michigan Ross School of Business Renewable Energy Case Competition. Teams were asked to design a pilot program to supply 24/7 clean energy to one of a fictitious client company’s three facilities: a factory in California, a data center in Virginia or corporate headquarters in Michigan. The pilot program had to be operational by the end of 2022. We chose the Michigan HQ because it offered a predictable energy demand profile, low operational risk in a power failure and a favorable policy environment.

We dove deep into research and eventually uncovered three key features that powered our solution: a local infrastructure financing program called Lean & Green Michigan™; the utility’s clean energy option, DTE Clean Power; and accurate current power purchasing agreement rates for solar, wind and hydro. Our solution met the client’s goals and resulted in a 10.4% cost savings. Our competitors’ solutions either didn’t reach 100% clean power or raised the client’s costs.

Our team was well-rounded. It included engineers, general managers, financial analysts and consultants, and we all supplemented our existing skill sets with new skills built by Anderson. Call it hubris, but halfway through the RECC, before we knew we would come in first place, the five of us decided to enter another competition, the sixth annual University of Michigan Ross Future of Mobility Case Competition — in which teams were asked to create a 15-year competitive strategy recommendation for a legacy original equipment manufacturer as it scaled up to 100% electrification.

Our research into renewable energy markets dovetailed with our energy ACT curriculum at Anderson, and we used the marketing framework from our core marketing management class to propose the winning marketing strategy for electric vehicles, specifically confronting consumer anxiety around charging and range.

Victor said he thinks we won because of our open-mindedness, ability to dive deep into the research and bold strategies. “We openly encouraged wild ideas and found loads of research to back them up, which really helped us stand out from teams that were too conservative or less prepared,” he said.

These competitions were crash courses in working in our target industries, valuable experiences that would be hard to get elsewhere. We learned a tremendous amount in both case competitions. We developed industry knowledge about renewable energy generation, financing and purchase agreements, as well as about electric vehicle technology, charger infrastructure deployment and evolving business models for automakers. We also learned how to break down ambiguous problems, conduct research and make recommendations at a breakneck pace.

Two wins in two weeks took a huge amount of work, but would we take on another? Absolutely.

Watch the RECC finals