MSc Renewable Energy and Clean Technology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Understanding Energy as a 'system' driving modern society

Course unit fact file
Unit code EEEN60411
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


The principal drivers of renewable energy are climate change and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. This module puts renewable energy in context by considering the whole energy system from how and why we consume energy, to the form it is supplied, where it comes from and how it is delivered. Further, the energy system is understood not just as a static picture of today, but as a dynamic and not completely predictable part of a changing society. This unit will take students through a tour of energy systems, providing them with an appreciation of how the dynamics of energy is changing, an understanding of the science, technologies and policies related to climate change and how these may impact on the development and deployment of renewable energy. Through integrated coursework, the unit will finish with the students, in conjunction with Tyndall Centre researchers, using the lessons learned from earlier lectures to build a small series of low-carbon energy scenarios for different nations.


The unit aims to:

  • Teach students about the wider climate change and energy security context within which renewable technologies are situated; this will ensure students have a good scientific, quantitative and qualitative foundation on which the more technology focussed analysis of the following modules can build.
  • Provide students with an understanding of energy as a systemic issue, with fundamental interactions between how/when energy is used and the form, structure and operation of energy supply.
  • Enable the students to grasp a range of relevant energy policies and their role in constraining or encouraging renewable deployment
  • Give students the skills to effectively handle energy data, develop energy/electricity scenarios and models for their home nations and interpret these in terms of the technical specification of renewable electricity generation. 

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Explain the socio-economic and technical basis of the demand for energy.
  • Recall the diverse range of low carbon technologies that can fulfil demand for energy services.
  • Situate low carbon technologies within the context of energy systems including their geographic and economic circumstances.
  • Recall general examples of trends in energy supply and demand, including for transport and heat.
  • Describe the types of policies that can be used to move energy systems to renewable and clean technologies, and recall examples at a range of scales.

Intellectual skills

  • Identify interactions between elements in energy systems.
  • Analyse energy system data and disaggregate macro trends to compare the development of different energy systems.
  • Interpret and integrate quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Discuss the political and economic drivers and barriers to a low carbon economy.
  • Apply knowledge of social considerations in infrastructure development to discuss stakeholder perspectives.
  • Apply knowledge of climate science to explain the quantitative scale of emissions reductions required of existing and future energy systems in line with different national and international obligations. 

Practical skills

  • Use quantitative tools and models to develop energy scenarios.
  • Articulate and justify conclusions in written and spoken forms.
  • Account for greenhouse gas emissions arising from the various elements of energy systems.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 50%
Written exam 50%

Written Examination

Duration: 3 hours

The examination forms 50% of the total unit assessment

Course Work

A short multiple choice online test on energy balances (15%)

A longer energy transitions exercise with initial technical workng in pairs

Followed by an individual report (35%)

Course Work forms 50% of the overall unit assessment

Feedback methods


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
External visits 3
Lectures 27
Practical classes & workshops 6
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 108

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Welfle Unit coordinator
Alejandro Gallego Schmid Unit coordinator

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