Course modules for the MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures

Here you can find descriptions of the various modules of the MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures. They are organised by the term in which they run. You can also download a PDF containing a detailed description of every module.

Course modules

Autumn term

During the autumn term the MSc focuses on Core Foundation modules to provide a solid grounding for students from diverse academic backgrounds.

Energy Systems Technology

This module aims to convey the fundamentals of modern/future energy systems in terms of their technical properties and economic and environmental impacts. The technologies/systems considered include solar photovoltaic electricity generation, fuel cells and hydrogen for stationary and transport electricity generation and wind power. The module will also consider estimation of energy resources and demands along with the main sources of data and methods for analysis.

Methods for the Analysis of Energy Systems

The module provides students with a range of tools for the analysis of energy systems and resources from both technical/capability and environmental impact viewpoints. These will include thermodynamic methods for the analysis of energy systems with conventional thermal power plant and transport cycles used as case studies. The module will also include modelling, simulation and optimisation of energy systems (components, networks and supply chains), multiscale modelling, sensitivity, uncertainty and risk analysis, life cycle and scenario analysis. Typical applications for each method and case studies will also be considered.

Energy Economics and Policy

Topics in this module include energy demand, supply markets, competition, energy policy principles and local, national and regional examples. National and international regulatory and legal environments, energy-economics-environmental models of global impact and policy instruments and market mechanisms for carbon mitigation will also be considered. Cost/Benefit analysis and private investment decision making will be discussed. The module will also provide a platform for evaluating future technologies.

Energy Futures Lab Debating Society/ The Graduate School Courses/ Guest Speakers

This module gives students the opportunity to look beyond the confines of the taught course modules to consider broader aspects of energy and to gain key professional skills. In the debating society, students will explore current energy issues. Previous debating topics have included, for example, the role of industrialised nations in leading the march on climate change, the construction of new nuclear power stations and their role in the UK energy landscape and whether an individual can influence the use of one technology through their investment in it. The Graduate School courses give students the opportunity to develop professional skills (such as oral presentation, CV writing, etc.) that are useful not only during the MSc course but also in securing and succeeding in gainful employment thereafter. In addition, during this module, guest speakers from the leading edge of academia, industry and government are invited to give bespoke lectures exclusively to the MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures students.

Spring term

The Spring term for the MSc revolves around intensive modules lasting two weeks. Each module is taught by experts in that field, from academia, industry and government.

Urban Energy Systems

Topics in the Urban Energy Systems module include urbanisation and growth in energy demand; cities as dynamic systems; characterising city infrastructures; complex systems and networks; energy supply, conversion and demands in cities; resource flows and city sustainability; modelling, analysis and optimisation of cities from an energy systems perspective; transport modelling; land use interactions and energy demands. Case studies will also be considered.


In this module, students will develop an understanding of the range of issues associated with bio-renewables (bioenergy, bio-chemicals and bio-materials), production and use. They will be exposed to a wide range of conventional, advanced and emerging technological options for the production, pre-conversion, conversion and end use of biomass. Students will acquire the skills needed to evaluate the impacts and opportunities (environmental, economic and social) for deploying bio-renewables for climate mitigation and adaptation, energy security and rural development. They will develop the skills required to identify sustainable solutions for the exploitation of the biosphere for ecosystem and human services relevant to bioenergy. The module will also provide an introduction to specialist study opportunities and industrial applications in the field of bio-energy.

Low Carbon Technologies: Nuclear (half module)

Topics include nuclear fission and its position in the energy mix, fundamentals of power production by fission, reactors fundamentals, the fuel cycle, options for dealing with spent fuels, nuclear waste management, safety aspects, decommissioning, advanced reactor designs and future prospects., and the economics of nuclear energy. Students will develop a working knowledge of the basic radiation related processes associated with nuclear energy generation, their risks and consequences. They will also develop the skills required to assess the likely technological issues associated with nuclear institutions including reactor designs, nuclear waste, decontamination of nuclear instillations and transport of nuclear materials.

Low Carbon Technologies: Marine Energy (half module)

During this module, students will develop a working knowledge of the ocean (offshore) environment, and to appreciate the particular constraints this environment places upon engineering design. They will develop an understanding of the key environmental conditions, including waves, winds and tides, and how they lead to environmental loads on marine energy structures. Students will also develop an understanding of the principal energy conversion technologies suitable to the offshore environment including wave energy, tidal energy, and aspects of offshore wind. The module also aims to help students develop an understanding of key cost drivers in the offshore environment, common to all technologies, such as offshore foundations, site planning, licensing and installation

Energy Transmission and Storage

This module will introduce the transmission network issues towards large scale integration of wind power, provide a vision for future distributed energy systems, explain power flow analysis and its role in planning and operational studies of electric power transmission system, provide an overview of the high voltage direct current transmission (HVDC) and flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS) technologies, explain the principles and describe the design and operation of grid scale energy storage technologies, provide an overview of the hydrogen transmission and storage infrastructure and explain the role of gas in a low carbon future

Sustainable Transport

Topics in this module include the role of transport in the overall energy picture, aviation and road transport technologies, rail related (mass transit) issues (linking with Urban Energy Systems), aero and vehicle propulsion (including aero engine propulsion models, IC engines, hybrid vehicles, fuel cells for transport applications), infrastructure implications, current and emerging technologies and role and impact of transport policy.

Entrepreneurship in Renewable Energy

Entrepreneurship in the alternative energy space is critical for its long term success. In this module, we will explore different elements of entrepreneurship from technology commercialisation, product positioning, new market development and financing options among others.  The programme will be centred around case discussions with short assignments to be written on different cases. The cases will draw from both non-energy related areas such as consumer markets or services as well as renewable energy allowing us to gain a broader understanding of entrepreneurship principles.

Summer term

Over the Summer term students on the MSc must undertake an independent piece of work informed by original research, experimentation or through journal and statistical analysis. The students choose their project during the Autmn term and a literature review is submitted early in the spring term.

The project concludes with a submission of a final dissertation, a thesis of around 100 pages, in late September and a project presentation and poster presentation during the Sustainable Energy Futures Student Conference.

Some examples of the projects offered as part of this course:

  • Business models in clean energy systems
  • Development of surrogate fuels for HCCI engines
  • Demand response in electricity markets
  • Renewable energy markets in the developing world: from a commercial and investment perspective
  • Quantifying the environmental impact of alternative traffic management conditions in an urban environment
  • The business of distributed generation: a techno-econominc analysis
  • Development of CCS in the UK
  • Impact assessment of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on the UK electricity grid
  • Comparing electric and hydrogen fuels cell vehicles on a lifecycle basis