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Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:28

Course Overview

This course gives students an introduction and overview of energy transition, by focussing on the three key areas of demand, technology and economics. It begins with an introduction to the current energy system and the motivation for an energy transition. There follows a characterisation of the key drivers that underpin our social and economic reliance on energy. Subsequently, behavioural measures and technologies to enable the energy transition are examined and assessed according to diverse technical, economic and environmental criteria.

Course Details

Study Type Postgraduate Level 5
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Professor Russell McKenna

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Postgraduate Programme
  • Either Master Of Science In Sustainability Transitions or Master Of Science In Energy Transition Systems And Technologies

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

This course covers the subject of energy transition from an engineering-economic perspective. It starts by way of introduction with an overview of the current energy system, with some prominent international examples. The course then moves on to explore the underlying drivers that influence our demand for energy, or energy service demands (ESD). ESDs are the services that energy fulfils for consumers, for example travelling 100 km or heating a home to a comfortable temperature. Only by understanding ESDs is it possible to understand the possibilities to increase the sustainability and/or efficiency of the energy system.   

After this introduction, the core of the course is devoted to the measures and technologies to enable an energy transition, from today’s unsustainable system to a future sustainable one. Firstly different types of measures such as demand reduction/energy efficiency and renewable energy are assessed in a framework of priority according to their relative cost and feasibility. Subsequently, the individual measures and technologies are presented in detail, involving an explanation of their technical characteristics as well as economic and environmental characterisation.  

Once the individual technologies and measures have been introduced, they are evaluated and compared to one another based on multiple criteria. This provides students with an understanding of the respective advantages and disadvantages of these technologies. This also includes a classification according to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and an outlook for future developments. 

The final part of the course is devoted to the system perspective and addresses some of the engineering, economic and policy challenges associated with the energy transition. Examples include the integration of fluctuating renewable energies, the requirement to subsidize nascent technologies and the often-encountered barriers that lead to the so called “energy efficiency gap” – the gap between what is economically feasible and the level of uptake seen in practice. 

Overall, this course is intended as in an introduction and overview to the whole MSc Programme, introducing many of the topics and methods from the later courses, and preparing students for these courses and their coursework assignments

Associated Costs

Field trip GBP 100.00

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

First Attempt
Coursework (20%)
Online Open-Book Exam (80%)
Resit Arrangements
Resit of only the failed assessment component(s)

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ProceduralAnalyseStudents should analyse the potential contribution of different technologies towards emissions abatement and/or energy saving/generation in the context of the energy transition
ConceptualUnderstandStudents should understand the concept of energy transition the diverse motivation for it and the complex nature of the challenge.
FactualRememberStudents should know how todays energy system is structured, what contribution it makes to local and global emissions, and the link this has to the energy transition.
ProceduralApplyStudents should apply the concepts of levelized costs of energy (LCOE), emissions abatement costs and related metrics in order assess different emissions abatement measures and technologies.
ReflectionEvaluateStudents should evaluate a realistic energy system in the context of the energy transition and prioritize measures and technologies based on technical feasibility and cost.

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