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Two PhD candidates in the Energy and Environmental
Policy Program, Nabil Al-Abbas and Joseph Nyangon have won the 2016 United
States Association for Energy Economics (USAEE) and the International
Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) Case Competition which took place at
the 34th USAEE/IAEE North American Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma from October
23-26, 2016. The USAEE/IAEE Case competition is a top annual team-based competition focused on energy
economics. It is open to teams from top
academic and research-based institutions in the U.S.
I am very pleased that we have brought this
distinguished award in energy economics to the University of Delaware for the
first time, said Nyangon, a fourth-year PhD student studying electric power
sector operations, regulation, and new business models in the U.S. electricity
market with a focus on the utility of the future under Dr. John Byrne. What
I enjoyed most was the experience of working on a critical real-world energy problem
under a strict deadline and the pressure to produce a high-quality McKinsey-style
business report and presentation for the client.
The competition was organized by the USAEE/IAEE
in collaboration with NRG Energy and the Ministry of Energy, Industry and
Mineral Resources in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to evaluate the costs
and benefits of renewable energy transition in a high oil dependent economy in
Middle East, particularly in KSA by developing infrastructure-scale utility
I was proud when we were selected as the top
three finalists last July, said Al-Abbas, a fourth-year PhD student sponsored
by Saudi Aramco and studying electricity market challenges in Saudi Arabia with
a focus on identifying pathways toward sustainable electricty supply and demand
using an integrated resource strategic planning approach under Dr. Lado
Kurdgelashvili. I am even more proud now that we have won the overall
competition against some of the best universities. It is a testament to our
talent and the hard work we have put into this competition for more than seven
Nyangon and Al-Abbass prize-winning
solution, Techno-economic modeling and
sensitivity analysis of costs and benefits of renewable energy transition for
Saudi Arabia, looks at the question of whether attaining over 70% of renewable
electricity generation in the country through an ambitious integrated
decarbonization strategy of the electric power system is technically,
economically, and fundamentally viable. Our key objective of participating in
this top international competition was to work on a demanding energy economics
problem, present realistic solution to a panel of distinguished experts, and
win this prestigious award, Al-Abbas added.
Previous winners of the USAEE/IAEE prize
include MIT; Carnegie Mellon University; University of California, Berkeley;
Stanford University; the University of California, Davis, among others. I am
thrilled, though not surprised, that the USAEE/IAEE selected Joe and Nabeel for
this very important award, said Dr. Byrne, a Distinguished Professor and
Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) at the
University of Delaware. This is just as good as it gets! This award illustrates
the importance of interdisciplinary focus of our program in knowledge areas
such as economics, engineering, and policy analysis, says Dr. Syed Ismat,
Director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Program. This is great news.
The competition is sponsored
by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center (KAPSARC) and is
designed to challenge the skills required of an energy economist employed in
industry or consulting: working with a team within a limited time frame,
extracting and investigating the relevant details from a complex issue offering
limited data, and presenting a cogent analytical solution in a succinct format.
Participating teams are assigned the role of consultants and are given a
tasking memo along with several hundred pages of associated documentation
(reports, news articles, raw data, and academic papers). They are given three
weeks to return a 20-page report summarizing their analysis and conclusions. A
panel of judges assesses each paper and selects three teams to present their
results at a special concurrent session during the annual USAEE/IAEE conference.
This year, the three teams with the best
solutions invited to present their results in Tulsa, Oklahoma were from the University
of Delaware, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of California,
Davis. Additionally, nearly fifty academic researchers on fifteen teams
participated in the competition, representing some of the best universities
from around the world. The panel of judges included Prof. Lester Hunt from the
University of Surrey/KAPSARC; Dr. Michael Canes, former President of the USAEE
and Distinguished Fellow with the Logistics Management Institute (LMI); and
Walid Matar of KAPSARC.
Each year, an entirely new question is
created. Energy questions covered in the last five years addressed a variety of
topics such as how to quickly raise demand for natural gas in Pennsylvania, developing
a business model for a fictitious utility company in California facing
uncertain electricity growth from a rise in electric vehicle charging,
financing improvements in energy intensity, among others. This year, the
competition focused on solving energy crisis in Saudi Arabia. In addition to
addressing an important topic, this question was chosen to fit the potential of
renewables in the country in the contexts of depressed oil prices and falling
renewable energy costs. Teams were asked to design a mechanism that would
balance important elements such as return on investment, discount rate, and net
present value; the benefits of decarbonizing electric power generation and
water desalination sectors; and the need for a detailed and balanced analysis of
economic, social and environmental benefits of energy transition to cleaner
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