Bright Ideas for Seattle City Light

The winning team members and their instructor, from left to right: Ryker Young, Erin Hoffinger, John Hansen (instructor), Ken Luginbuhl, Julia Kuhn, and Cara Haass

UW students presented their ideas on renewable energy generation and promotion this month at a case competition for Seattle City Light. This was a capstone project for senior students in UW’s Foster School of Business.

A total of 46 teams offered innovative solutions on how to meet increased renewable energy requirements posed by I-937, voted on by Seattle residents in 2006.  The teams proposed utilizing solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and other types of renewable energy. The business students presented their ideas along with an analysis of City Light’s Community Solar initiative and recommendations on how to structure, market and price the program.

The winning student proposal was a marketing program called “Solar|Sea: Solar energy for every Seattleite,” proposed by team YDC Consulting.  The proposed program would help build awareness and support for Community Solar while satisfying the interests of key stakeholders.

Solar|Sea would provide customers the opportunity to become a level one, two or three member of Community Solar, while giving those who purchase larger solar panels a greater return on their investment in the form of an annual solar credit on their City Light bill. They recommended this program as a step in the right direction toward meeting I-937 requirements.

Current Community Solar projects can be found at the Seattle Aquarium and Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill. More information is available on the Seattle City Light Solar Energy website.

SCL Winners

The winning team members and their instructor, from left to right: Ryker Young, Erin Hoffinger, John Hansen (instructor), Ken Luginbuhl, Julia Kuhn, and Cara Haass

“The most challenging aspect was hashing out with my team what view we were going to take,” said winning team member Cara Haass.

The winning team spent many hours working together to come up with their final recommendation.

The most valuable part of the competition for teammate Erin Hoffinger was learning how to present to an executive team and “think on your feet about responses with concrete numbers and analysis in order to answer questions.”

The case competition offered City Light a variety of fresh perspectives on strategic positioning for renewable energy development while providing the students an opportunity to put their classroom learning to use in a real-world application. “Our partnerships with organizations in the case competition are important for the Foster School of Business and its mission of preparing exceptional business leaders,” said UW Foster’s experiential learning manager Josina Garnham.

“Seattle City Light was pleased to partner with the Foster School of Business to examine one of the most complex and important issues the utility faces in the medium to long term. It’s also an issue that confronts the industry as a whole. We were excited by the fresh ideas and perspectives the students brought to the table,” said Jorge Carrasco, General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.

Utilities nationwide are looking for ways to strategically incorporate solar energy and other renewable power sources into their operations. Seattle City Light is a publicly-owned utility and it must balance environmental, social, and financial considerations when planning and making strategic decisions.

The environmental and economic benefits of solar power are good for our local community. City Light customers can participate in Community Solar or even install solar panels for their homes or businesses to harness clean, renewable power while reducing the amount of electricity they purchase each month. For more information about solar programs please visit the Community Solar website.