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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Postgraduate Course: Energy Systems and Technologies (PGSP11625)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryCourse has been re-named Fundamentals of Energy Systems and Technologies for 2024/25.

This course provides students with a fundamental understanding of Energy Systems and Technologies by using a whole systems approach (stages from extraction to waste) to explore how the physical and technical components of energy resources and the way these are co-created and impact our societies and surrounding environment. The final objective of such a systemic approach, beyond students becoming familiar and knowledgeable on the scientific and technical fundamentals of energy technologies, is that they can understand and recognise the importance of energy systems as connected to wider social and natural systems.

After a first lecture on energy systems and energy services the course will explore the fundamental principles as well as historical development of different energy technologies (e.g. solar PV, wind turbines, biomass, smart grids and hydrogen), with critical discussions elaborating on future trends, as well as social and environmental impacts. After exploring different energy technologies one lecture will be devoted to providing students with a basic understanding of concepts and calculations on energy economics (e.g. CAPEX, OPEX, and LCOE) engaging critically with the relevance of these tools for policy and decision-making. The last week will focus on a course summary and an essay clinic to ensure equipping students with the necessary tools to develop assignment two, a long academic essay to recognise and reflect upon the complex entanglement of EST with natural and human systems. The use of mathematics for calculations will be limited to basic manipulations of data and simple formulae, making the course accessible for students from all disciplinary backgrounds.
Course description Energy Systems & Technologies (EST) have co-evolved with human societies. Our day to day activities can be understood in practical, economic, and cultural terms (e.g. working habits, commuting patterns, food cultures), but they are invariably and fundamentally underpinned by particular arrangements of EST. These arrangements may be stable for long periods, or may undergo rapid changes due to government policies, technological developments, market processes and other factors. The majority of our MSc students do not have the requisite background to fully appreciate the nature and role of EST in shaping societal, political and environmental outcomes. They often recognise the influence of EST on natural and human systems but lack understanding of the technical fundamentals that characterise EST in terms of material inputs, conversion processes, underpinning technologies, lifecycle characteristics, technical efficiencies, supporting infrastructures etc.

This course provides students with the conceptual, technical fundamentals and critical engagement of different EST, allowing them to:
Understand the historical background and development from different energy technologies and the drivers for change.
Critically think about the complex nature of energy systems and their entanglement with wider social and natural systems.
Identify and understand concepts and measurement units related to energy.
Understand the fundamental technical and physical principles behind energy resources, and the operation of technologies to harvest them.

Students will engage in weekly seminars and group discussions based on pre-assigned readings and case studies. Students will also be provided with fortnightly group activities that allow them to assess their learning collectively and individually. Finally, through the formal assignments students will develop key transferable skills including professional presentation, teamwork, report writing and analytical skills
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge that covers and integrates the most common concepts and units related to energy systems (e.g. MWh vs MW).
  2. Demonstrate knowledge that covers and integrates an understanding of the basic technical principles behind energy systems and technologies.
  3. Apply knowledge and understanding of the course content by estimating rough calculations on potential energy outputs and energy economics.
  4. Develop a critical awareness of the historical development of different energy technologies and the current trends in energy systems.
  5. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the complex nature of energy systems and technologies and their entanglement with wider social and natural systems.
Reading List
Rashid, Muhammad H., Electric Renewable Energy Systems, Elsevier, 2016.

MacKay, David J.C., Sustainable Energy without the hot air, UIT Cambridge, 2008. Available free online from

Salameh, Ziyad, Renewable Energy System Design, Elsevier, 2014

Additionally, the course contemplates for students to have least two readings related to each week topic to engage in group discussions and reporting sessions. Such readings include

Cross, J. and Murray, D. (2018) The afterlives of solar power: Waste and repair off the grid in Kenya, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier, 44(April), pp. 100,109.

Fell, M. J. (2017) Energy services: A conceptual review, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier Ltd, 27, pp. 129 140.

Goedkoop, F. and Devine-Wright, P. (2016) Partnership or placation? the role of trust and justice in the shared ownership of renewable energy projects, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier Ltd, 17, pp. 135,146.

Gray, E. M. et al. (2011) Hydrogen storage for off-grid power supply, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 36(1), pp. 654,663.

Van der Horst, D. (2007) NIMBY or not? Exploring the relevance of location and the politics of voiced opinions in renewable energy siting controversies, Energy Policy, 35(5), pp. 2705,2714.

Jenkins, L. D. et al. (2018) Human dimensions of tidal energy: A review of theories and frameworks, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Elsevier Ltd, 97(May), pp. 323,337.

Kalt, G. et al. (2019) Conceptualizing energy services: A review of energy and well-being along the Energy Service Cascade, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier, 53(March), pp. 47,58.

Kerr, S. et al. (2015) Rights and ownership in sea country: Implications of marine renewable energy for indigenous and local communities, Marine Policy. Elsevier, 52(May 2013), pp. 108,115.

Mangoyana, R. B. and Smith, T. F. (2011) Decentralised bioenergy systems: A review of opportunities and threats, Energy Policy, 39(3), pp. 1286,1295.

Milchram, C. et al. (2018) Energy Justice and Smart Grid Systems: Evidence from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Applied Energy, 229(August), pp. 1244,1259.

Siciliano, G. et al. (2018) Large dams, energy justice and the divergence between international, national and local developmental needs and priorities in the global South, Energy Research and Social Science. Elsevier, (July 2017), pp. 0,1.

Yenneti, K., Day, R. and Golubchikov, O. (2016) Spatial justice and the land politics of renewables: Dispossessing vulnerable communities through solar energy mega-projects, Geoforum. Elsevier Ltd, 76, pp. 90,99
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The students are expected to develop problem-solving and STEM skills related to the techno-economic understanding of different technologies. They are also expected to develop critical thinking skills that will enable them to better navigate the complexity of energy systems and technologies and their interaction with wider social and natural systems.

Students are expected also to strengthen personal attributes such as responsibility, autonomy and effectiveness through engaging independently and in teams with the different activities and assignments included in this course. Moreover, the international and cooperative nature of this course is expected to also facilitate development of the interpersonal and cross-cultural communication, leadership and teamwork skills from students. The presentations and discussion sessions help students to refine their verbal skills, while the essay assignments help students further strengthen their writing skills.

In summary, the Energy Systems & Technologies course contributes to the strengthening of students personal and professional skills-set allowing graduates to effectively increase their employability.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserMr Adolfo Mejia-Montero
Course secretaryMrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456
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