Renewable energy case study

Moving our current power generation capacity to clean energy is capital intensive – but necessary to address carbon emissions. Power companies know this and many are quite open to finding new ways to lower emissions in their power generation, as well as find new ways of financing that new capacity. Take NRG, for example, one of the bigger integrated power companies in the US. NRG launched an MBA case study competition with the Economist magazine to search for innovative combinations of technical and financial solutions for four possible generation scenarios: a hospital in NJ, a California college campus, a NY town or a Texas data center. One prize for the competition is determined by audience votes.

Today, I voted for a UCLA case study team, whose proposed solution reduces carbon emissions by 75%, improves resiliency, and provides a 50% internal rate of return. Sounds like a win-win. Truth be told, all of the solutions were win-wins. I did like their particular solution, which did not require fossil fuels at all (instead using biomass, solar and battery backups) and had an interesting financial structure, albeit one that relied on current tax benefits to earn that return.

I also liked their communication style. All submissions had to have a video. Clearly, MBA students need more media training. Many just edited together clips of themselves talking to the camera; it was hard to watch five minutes of that. Several involved animations; slick and attractive, but didn’t show their personalities. Only one made me laugh, first on purpose but then not so much. The UCLA team I voted for had a good combination of themselves with just enough production value and on-screen visuals to complement their points. A lesson in communications.

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