During the fall of 2020, over 900 university students from 37 countries, 6 continents, and 70 universities competed for cash prizes totaling $10,000 in the inaugural International Switch Energy Case Competition. The competition was organized by Switch Energy Alliance, with the support of Hildebrand Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering at UT Austin.
Among the 900 university students, an Ohio State team was formed by SES graduate student Bailey Fitzgerald who teamed up with undergraduates Julia Boyer (public policy and international studies) and Zarah Fulay (political science and public policy major). Bailey, Julia, and Zarah were assisted by mentors and SES alumni Jory Pacht and Mario Gutierrez as well as coordinating help by Dr. Derek Sawyer.
The Case Competition challenged teams to propose an energy transition for one of three countries: Haiti, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Papua New Guinea, taking into consideration all relevant factors including economic feasibility, equity, health, policy, regulations, available resources, scalability, innovative technology, cultural sensitivity, environmental impact, and corruption.
Ohio State’s team, PNG Green, decided to investigate energy poverty in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Over the course of a month, the team worked on their own time outside of regular coursework to research the issues and possibilities for addressing energy poverty in PNG. They compiled the plan into a ten-minute virtual presentation aimed as a set of recommendations to energy leaders in PNG. The presentation was scored by a panel of industry professionals. While the team’s presentation was not selected as a finalist, the group did a fantastic job and had a rewarding experience. The team gained an intersectional understanding of the complex and nuanced issues associated with energy poverty in PNG. Julia was able to use knowledge from her classes and apply them to a real-life scenario that is directly related to the field she wants to pursue. For Zarah, the competition pushed her to "develop her research skills and apply them practically." Bailey learned valuable leadership skills coordinating the project as well as working with both undergraduates and OSU alumni. “Our combined knowledge gave us an advantage to understanding the necessity to provide cheap energy while taking into consideration the cultural and environmental issues in New Guinea”.
The Ohio State team should be proud of their accomplishment and they laid the foundation for future teams to compete.
1. Julia Boyer
2. Zarah Fulay
3. Bailey Fitzgerald