Students from the University of Oxford, London Business School, and Cornell University land top prizes at 2021 Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition

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Thursday, Nov 11, 2021 - 5:55 pm
Group of smiling people on a large screen in front of group of smiling people on stage.
This year's competition took a hybrid format, with some competitors and judges taking part in-person and others joining virtually. The Oxford University team celebrated their first-place win on the big screen, as a few judges and the Duke student organizers posed on stage. 

A group of graduate students from the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford took first place in the ninth annual Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition at Duke University. The competition engages diverse, creative teams of graduate students to address real energy challenges affecting the developing world. Students are encouraged to propose unconventional, business-based solutions for an industry partner, exposing unrecognized opportunities with positive social and environmental impact.

The competition awards $15K in prizes annually as part of Energy Week at Duke. It is organized by the MBA Energy Club at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and is sponsored by the James E. Rogers Energy Access Project at Duke.

Over the course of fall 2021, the competition engaged a record 108 teams of graduate students from universities spanning eight countries across the world.

C-Quest Capital, the competition’s 2021 industry partner, is a leading social impact investor and project developer that aims to provide sustainable energy solutions for communities with unreliable energy access. This year’s case challenged teams to develop business models for one of C-Quest Capital's high-impact carbon finance projects: promoting the distribution of sustainable biomass cooking fuels and related clean cooking technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

A student team from the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford took first place ($7,500):

  • Amit Chopra
  • Alison Filler
  • Sahaj Kumar
  • Chloe Payne
  • Suraj Yadav

A student team from the London Business School won second place ($5,000):

  • Dheeraj Chalasani
  • Genoveva Gonzelez
  • Cathy He
  • Tomas Hertz
  • Jai Srivastava

A student team from the S.C. Johnson College of Business at Cornell University won third place ($2,500):

  • Diana Fahning
  • Pedro Fernandez
  • Tapan Kar
  • Morgan Phillips
  • John Welsh

Other finalist teams hailed from IESE Business School (University of Navarra) and Yale School of Management (Yale University).

"This was an amazing opportunity to put our practical skills to the test and apply our creativity to innovate solutions that tackle real world energy access challenges in East Africa," said competitor Alison Filler on behalf of the Saïd Business School team. "We are so grateful to Duke University for inspiring us as a team to fuel development and progress."

Competitor Cathy He reported that her London Business School team found the competition "a joy" to experience: "Coming from all backgrounds and countries, we had so much fun challenging ourselves to tackle simultaneously the carbon credit and energy access markets in Sub Saharan Africa. We are thankful for the support from C-Quest Capital, Duke University, and the judges, and we also appreciate the opportunity to share our energy and passion for making an impact." 

Judges at the competition represented organizations including AES, Aspire Power Solutions, Baywa R.E., C-Quest Capital, Duke Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, General Electric, Orora Global, Schneider Electric, Southern California Edison, Sunfi, the U.S. Department of State, and Wood Mackenzie.

“The students had incredible insight into the market and customer base,” reflected Matt Siller, head of business development at C-Quest Capital. “The ideas they were proposing were creative and thought-provoking, really harnessing locally based solutions. It’ll give C-Quest a lot of food for thought as we move forward, and we really appreciate the partnership with Duke.”

Jonathan Phillips, director of the James E. Rogers Energy Access Project at Duke, said, “Each year, this competition increases in rigor and engages more graduate students around the world in tackling real challenges. As these students enter the professional sphere, we hope this experience spurs their engagement in advancing equitable and sustainable energy solutions in emerging markets.”

The lead Duke student organizers for the 2021 Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition were Mingyi Chen (MEM '22), Stefan Chen (MEM '22), and Sonia Nelson (MEM/MBA '22). 

Questions? Contact Stefan Chen (