Chicago Booth Students Win Ross Renewable Energy Case Competition

By John Chiulli, Class of 2019

By John Chiulli, Class of 2019

First quarter brings a lot of stress for first-year students: meeting new people, studying for classes, recruiting, student organizations, and adjusting to a new definition of pizza. To add to the mix of stresses, during midterm week of this past Fall Quarter, first-year students Rachel Enright, Conor Coughlin, Richard Yin, Louis Ernst, and John Chiulli participated in the University of Michigan Ross School of Business Renewable Energy Case Competition. Coming into the competition, each member of the team had a passion for energy and renewables, and had volunteered for the case to learn more about the industry. The goal of the case was to provide an innovative solution to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for a small food production firm that has several locations across the United States.

The members of the Booth team came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds, including consulting, financial services, economic analysis, tech, and engineering, and as such were able to provide a rich breadth of perspectives on the different issues facing the corporation. The team used an innovative solution that blended several different types of purchase agreements, including virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) and green tariffs as a foundation for the strategy which allowed the firm to reduce its exposure to future energy prices. In addition, the team provided a full-on design of an on-site solar energy and storage system for one of the production facility locations to illustrate a tangible renewable commitment to the customers and for positive brand imaging.

The Booth team faced a variety of challenges in the preparation and delivery of the presentations with the competition taking place in the middle of midterms, a plethora of other case competitions, not to mention campus recruiting. Luckily, there was plenty of coffee available at the Ross Business School to help them survive on only two or three hours of sleep.

The Booth Team, Tyrannosaurus Unbundled RECs, represented by Rachel Enright, Conor Coughlin, Richard Yin, Louis Ernst, and John Chiulli, pose with their winning check at the Ross Renewable Energy Case Competition

The Booth Team, Tyrannosaurus Unbundled RECs, represented by Rachel Enright, Conor Coughlin, Richard Yin, Louis Ernst, and John Chiulli, pose with their winning check at the Ross Renewable Energy Case Competition

After the presentations, the judges saluted the strength of the Booth curriculum, noting that the Booth team was the only one that prepared “before” and “after” financial statements with discounted cash flow analysis to analyze the impact on the financial performance of the firm. Moreover, the Booth team received unanimous praise for its team name: Tyrannosaurus Unbundled RECs (unbundled RECs being another method for purchasing renewable energy that was rejected by the Booth team).

Even before they knew the results of the case, the team could agree that regardless of how the case turned out, they would definitely check “YES” to the “Would Take a Road Trip With This Person” question. The road trip to Ann Arbor validated that. After that, winning the competition holding a giant cardboard check was the cherry on top.

John considers the Ross Renewable Energy competition one of his defining moments at Booth and is always happy to connect with classmates to learn about their defining moments, whether they involve inventive solutions to renewable energy issues or not.