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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 much 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: 17/01 Introduction
Week 2: 24/01 Energy history / energy transitions
Week 3: 31/01 Energy security
Week 4: 07/02 Energy landscapes
Week 5: 14/02 Automobility
ILW 1: 21/02 No lectures this week
Week 6: 28/02 Energy use at home
Week 7: 07/03 Energy use at work
Week 8: 14/03 Community energy
Week 9: 21/03 Cities, innovation & smart energy
Week 10: 28/03 Energy and data
Week 11: 04/04 Presentations of energy scenarios
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
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
Caragliu, A., Del Bo, C. and Nijkamp, P., 2011. Smart cities in Europe. Journal of urban technology, 18(2), pp.65-82.
Edensor, T., 2004. Automobility and national identity representation, geography and driving practice. Theory, Culture & Society, 21(4-5), pp.101-120.
Geels, F.W., 2002. Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study. Research policy, 31(8), pp.1257-1274.
Geels, F.W. and Schot, J., 2007. Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research policy, 36(3), pp.399-417.
Gram-Hanssen, K., 2010. Standby consumption in households analyzed with a practice theory approach. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 14(1), pp.150-165.
Haggett, C., Creamer, E., Harnmeijer, J., Parsons, M. and Bomberg, E., 2013. Community energy in Scotland: The social factors for success. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.
Hargreaves, T., 2011. Practice-ing behaviour change: Applying social practice theory to pro-environmental behaviour change. Journal of Consumer Culture, 11(1), pp.79-99.
Hawkey, D. and Webb, J., 2014. District energy development in liberalised markets: situating UK heat network development in comparison with Dutch and Norwegian case studies. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 26(10), pp.1228-1241.
Hawkey, D., Webb, J. and Winskel, M., 2013. Organisation and governance of urban energy systems: district heating and cooling in the UK. Journal of Cleaner Production, 50, pp.22-31.
Kruyt, B., van Vuuren, D.P., De Vries, H.J.M. and Groenenberg, H., 2009. Indicators for energy security. Energy Policy, 37(6), pp.2166-2181.
McKenna, E., Richardson, I. and Thomson, M., 2012. Smart meter data: Balancing consumer privacy concerns with legitimate applications. Energy Policy, 41, pp.807-814.
Molina-Markham, A., Shenoy, P., Fu, K., Cecchet, E. and Irwin, D., 2010, November. Private memoirs of a smart meter. In Proceedings of the 2nd ACM workshop on embedded sensing systems for energy-efficiency in building (pp. 61-66). ACM.
Nadai, A. and Van Der Horst, D., 2010. Introduction: Landscapes of energies. Landscape research, 35(2), pp.143-155.
Pasqualetti, M.J., 2011. Opposing wind energy landscapes: a search for common cause. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101(4), pp.907-917.
Seyfang, G., Park, J.J. and Smith, A., 2013. A thousand flowers blooming? An examination of community energy in the UK. Energy Policy, 61, pp.977-989.
Staddon, S.C., Cycil, C., Goulden, M., Leygue, C. and Spence, A., 2016. Intervening to change behaviour and save energy in the workplace: A systematic review of available evidence. Energy Research & Social Science, 17, pp.30-51.
Urry, J., 2004. The 'system' of automobility. Theory, Culture & Society, 21(4-5), pp.25-39.
Winzer, C., 2012. Conceptualizing energy security. Energy policy, 46, pp.36-48.
Wood, G., van der Horst D. et al. 2014. Serious games for energy social science research. Technology Assessment and Strategic Management 26(10), 1212-1227.
Yergin, D., 2006. Ensuring energy security. Foreign affairs, pp.69-82.
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 secretaryMiss Susie Crocker
Tel: (0131 6)51 7126
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