Duke student team wins ‘People’s Choice Award’ at energy case competition hosted by The Economist's 'Which MBA?'

A team of Duke University graduate students have earned a top prize in the Energy Case Study Competition hosted by The Economist's Which MBA?. Team iRISE (Incorporating Renewables Into Sustainable Enterprises) received the People’s Choice Award, along with a $3,000 cash prize, for their video entry and full report

Watch Team iRISE's video submission:


This year’s competition is sponsored by NRG, the leading integrated power company in the United States. Each student team selected one of four scenarios provided by NRG, then developed a financial model for an energy system integrating multiple distributed energy technologies. Teams introduced their solutions in video submissions, accompanied by more in-depth report documents.

Team iRISE’s solution outlined a financial model for a distributed energy system in a 40 MW community in New York (NYISO). The team envisioned a system incorporating rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels, fuel cells, and battery storage. Their financial model proposed a partnership between NRG and the community, with incentives aligned to conserve energy, reduce costs, and generate revenue through selling excess energy and ancillary services to NYISO.

Team iRISE was competing with 15 other student teams from universities across the world, including Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Rutgers, and UCLA. A second team of Duke students took part as well.

Team iRISE members represent Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Fuqua School of Business:

  • Edgar Virguez is a first-year student pursuing a PhD in Environment;
  • Colin Walker is a first-year student pursuing a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree; and
  • Jenna Weiner is a first-year student pursuing a MEM/MBA dual degree.

The team was organized by the Duke University Energy Initiative, an interdisciplinary hub for energy education, research and engagement across Duke University’s schools.

“Our team recognized that it wasn’t enough to come up with a smart solution,” noted MEM/MBA student Jenna Weiner. “We also had to be able to explain it in an accessible way, really maximizing the video format for the entries. Most of the other teams were composed solely of MBA students. I think our interdisciplinarity helped us make a great idea into a compelling one.”

“The Energy Initiative has helped cultivate a lively community of students and faculty at Duke who excel in their disciplines yet push past traditional academic boundaries in their approach to energy challenges. The Economist’s award to our outstanding student team provides strong recognition that this approach is not only unique—it is very effective,” noted EI interim director Brian Murray.

Team member Colin Walker added, “Jenna’s pursuing a dual MBA/MEM degree, and Edgar and I have taken multiple energy courses beyond the School of the Environment. That’s not unusual at Duke, and the Energy Initiative sets up many additional opportunities for networking and collaborating outside of our schools.”

The iRISE team’s recognition adds to an impressive list of energy case competition successes by Duke University student teams this year. Duke student teams won first place at the UCLA Anderson School of Management competition this winter and second place at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business competition last fall.

Contact: Braden Welborn, Associate Director for Communications, Duke University Energy Initiative

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