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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Energy & Society (PGGE11208)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
Summary"The struggle for life is the struggle for available energy" this quote attributed to the physicist and philosopher Ludwig Boltzmann highlights how important energy is in our lives. Indeed, all our other material resources could be provided for (and indeed recycled) if we had a limitless supply of cheap energy. Alas, the dream of civilian use of nuclear fusion remains 50 years away whilst our current energy system has proved to be rather expensive once we started to observe and learned to account for all the social and environmental externalities it creates.
Most iconic inventions in human history are directly related to the increase of "energy services", e.g. the control of fire, the invention of the wheel. Our innate understanding of the importance of energy is evidenced not only though our dreams and creativity but even through our spirituality. Take for example the first page of the book of Genesis: God's first act of creation was to switch the light on before eventually creating the consumers of this "energy service" energy. It is a vision of creation which features the ultimate engineer, taking a "supply-side" approach to our energy needs (and by inference, designing humans to use the daylight provided).

Many of the energy challenges we face in the 21st century are more to do with "demand side"; understanding the complexity of human desires, values and behaviour in relation to energy use. It would be a gross simplification to see these challenges, summarised in the "energy trilemma" (clean, affordable & secure energy), as mainly technical problems; they are more to do with the social and political issues associated with changing our energy system. In other words, the operating space of human engineers is determined by social, economic and political processes.

Yet most existing post graduate courses on energy are of a technical nature. This particular course was set up in recognition of the pedagogic imperative for students to explore the numbers behind politicized discussions on our energy future (e.g. the cost of new nuclear, the intermittency of renewables, the scope for improved energy efficiency). Moreover the course seeks to help students improve their numerical energy literacy, to encourage students to look at society "through the energy lens" and unpack our overdependence on scarce and contested resources, the social impacts of energy provision and the lock-in and externalising effects of energy provision under incumbent (and unsustainable) energy regimes and associated technologies. The course cuts across scales from the domestic to the national and international, seeking to draw lessons from historical energy transitions and from comparative analysis in different national, geographical, political and socio-economic contexts.
Course description Week 1 12/01 Introduction; energy transitions history & theory
Week 2 19/01 Energy landscapes & resource frontiers
Week 3 26/01 Community energy - Bregje van Veelen
Week 4 2/02 Demand management; technical expectations & social practices at work & at home - Sam Staddon
Week 5 9/02 Energy poverty, security, wellbeing - Rose Pritchard
ILW 1 6/02 No lectures this week
Week 6 23/02 Energy policy evaluation + Energy markets - Harry van der Weijde
Week 7 01/03 Political economy of energy finance - Phillip Bruner
Week 8 8/03 "Biomess" and the food-energy water nexus.
Week 9 15/03 Consumer feedback; gaming approaches - Georgina Wood
Week 10 22/03 Sustainable heating in cities - David Hawkey
Week 11 29/03 Summary and evaluation
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Please contact the School directly for a breakdown of Learning and Teaching Activities
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Practical assignment (25%), Social media and presentation
(25%), Essay (50%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify and assess the role of access to energy in historical processes of societal change.
  2. Examine the socio-technical nature of technology adoption, and the political nature of energy policy choices in the context of energy systems change.
  3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of systemic, institutional and individual challenges to more energy efficient lifestyles.
  4. Deploy skills in measuring, monitoring and evaluating energy use, for the purpose of assessing more energy efficient interventions.
Reading List
Chevalier J-M. 2009. The New Energy Crisis:Climate, Economics and Geopolitics. Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Elliott D. 2009. Energy, Society and Environment: Technology for a Sustainable Future. Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Fay J.A. and Golomb D. 2002. Energy and the Environment. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Goldemberg J. 1996. Energy, Environment and Development. Earthscan, London.

Helm D. (ed.) 2007. The New Energy Paradigm. Oxford University Press,

Fanchi R.J., Tjan Kwang Wei (eds.) 2005. Energy in the 21st Century. World
Scientific, Hackensack, N.J.

Illich I. 1974. Energy and Equity. Calder &
Boyars, London

Hughes T.P. 1993 Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society,
1880-1930. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore

Lovins A.B. 1977. Soft Energy Paths: Toward a Durable Peace. Penguin, London.

Mallon K. (ed.) 2007. Renewable Energy Policy and Politics: A Handbook for Decision- Making. Earthscan, London.

McElroy M. 2010. Energy: Perspectives, Problems, and Prospects. Oxford
University Press, Oxford.

Mitchell, K. 2009. The Political Economy of Sustainable Energy. Macmillan,

Muller I. 2007. A History of Thermodynamics: The Doctrine of Energy and Entropy.
Springer, Berlin.

Niele F. 2005. Energy: Engine of Evolution. Elsevier, London.

Nye D.E. 1998. Consuming Power: A Social History of American Energies. MIT
Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Pasqualetti M.J., Gipe P. and Righter R.W.(eds.) 2002. Wind Power in View:
Energy Landscapes in a Crowded World. Academic Press, San Diego.

Smil V. 1994. Energy in World History. Westview Press, Boulder.

Smil V. 2003. Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties.
MIT Press, Cambridge.

Sudhakara R., Assenza G., Assenza D. and Hasselmann F. 2010. Energy Efficiency
and Climate Change: Conserving Power for a Sustainable Future. Sage, London.

Twidell J. and Weir T. 2006: Renewable Energy Resources. Taylor & Francis,

Wagner H.J. (2008) Energy: The World's Race for Resources in the 21st Century. Haus Publishing Limited, London.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills energy literacy in daily life; quantitative skills in monitoring of energy use and spread-sheet based modelling; presentation and communication skills.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Dan Van Der Horst
Tel: (0131 6)51 4467
Course secretaryMr Edwin Cruden
Tel: (0131 6)50 2543
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