MEEN40090 Energy Systems and Climate Change

Academic Year 2024/2025

Energy systems drive all economies; provide essential heating, cooling, and desalination services; and underpin services in medicine, education, transport, communications and many other areas. To date, and for the foreseeable future, the vast majority of the energy supply has, and will continue to, come from fossil fuels. However, unprecedented growth in global population and economic development has led to an exponential growth in energy demand. The finite nature of the fossil-fuel resource, coupled with growing awareness of the impact their consumption has on the global environment, presents a practical and ethical dilemma: how can current and future energy demands be met in an equitable and sustainable manner?

This module begins with a review of historic and projected energy demand, by region and by fuel. The connections between energy use and economic growth are explored, and the assumptions on which demand projections are predicated are considered. The importance of energy supply for meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is discussed.

This is followed by an introduction to the physics of greenhouse gases (GHG), in which the connection to combustion chemistry is elucidated. The potential impact of combustion emissions on local and regional air quality is also examined, and mitigation technologies are described and analysed.

This leads on to a review and discussion of Energy and Climate policies in the world's major economies, and in Ireland. The potential conflicts between the goals of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs are explored. The module then proceeds to a review of existing and emerging alternatives to fossil fuels, including renewables (biomass, wind, solar, marine, hydro), hydrogen, and nuclear power.

In addition to lectures, students are required to submit a Group Report on one topic from a prescribed list. The purpose of this assignment is to deepen a student's investigation of a particular area of the course, to develop their teamwork skills, and to improve their ability to communicate. They are also required to submit an Individual Assignment, on a topic of personal interest, from a prescribed list, Apart from personalising the student learning experience, this assignment develops a student's capacity for independent research, data analysis, and critical thinking.

The recommended text to accompany the module is: "Energy Systems Engineering". Vanek & Albright, McGraw-Hill.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:
1. Explain the historical and anticipated evolution of energy demand, by region and fuel type.
2. Explain, analyse, and discuss the potential impacts of fossil-fuel combustion on local and global scales.
3. Discuss the political, ethical, and technological tensions associated with growing energy demand.
4. Identify potential areas of tension between the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN SDGs.
5. Judge the physical, societal, economic and technical constraints on fossil-fuel based power generation, currently and into the future.
6. Assess the potential of alternative and renewable energy sources to supplement, and/or replace, conventional fuels in this role, and to contribute to achieving the UN SDGs.

Indicative Module Content:

This module will address the following topics:
Energy supply & demand: perspectives in time and space
The role of energy in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Combustion, CO2, and Climate Change
Climate change: attribution and prediction
Reconciling the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, with the UN SDGs.
Energy and Climate Policies - Irish, EU, and global perspectives
Displacing fossil-fuel combustion - challenges & opportunities
Choosing amongst alternative energy systems
Biomass and biofuels
Wind, Marine, and Solar energy
Nuclear power

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Delivery of this module is based around a framework of 30-35 lectures. The goals of the lecture element are:
* to impart information,
* to elucidate dependencies, and
* to promote reflective, critical thinking and debate.
A group report assignment constitutes a significant and important element of the module. Students, working in groups of 4-6, are expected to: select a research topic from a short list; distribute research tasks appropriately between the group members; conduct and critically assess their own element of the research; and combine the contributions of the individual members to yield a single, coherent report on the topic.
An individual assignment develops each student's capacity to carry out independent research; to source, analyse, and critically review relevant data; to identify or develop meaningful performance metrics; to construct and present evidence-based arguments; and to communicate their conclusions clearly and concisely. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
MEEN40120 - Power Plant

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered

Not yet recorded.

Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Vanek & Albright, Energy Systems Engineering. McGraw-Hill
International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2018. Available online through UCD Library
Name Role
Assoc Professor Luis Leon Vintro Lecturer / Co-Lecturer