MEEN40900 Energy, Climate and Sustainability (online)

Academic Year 2023/2024

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. This is followed by an introduction to the physics of greenhouse gases (GHG), in which the connection to combustion chemistry is elucidated.
This leads on to a review and discussion of Energy and Climate policies in Ireland, and in the world's major economies. The module then proceeds to a review of existing and emerging alternatives to fossil fuels, including renewables (biomass, wind, solar, marine, hydro), and energy efficiency.
In addition to lectures, students are required to submit a small number of written assignments during the module. These assignments are designed to reinforce, or extend, students' investigation of a particular area of the course, and to develop their wrtitten communication skills.
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. Judge the physical, societal, economic and technical constraints on fossil-fuel based power generation, currently and into the future.
5. Assess the potential of alternative and renewable energy sources to supplement, and/or replace, conventional fuels in this role.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
A series of pre-recorded lectures, and accompanying slides and reading lists, is available online. These provide the relevant background information required to maximise the benefit to each student of 6-8 interactive, online discussions hosted by the module coordinator. These sessions constitute the backbone of the module, and provide a forum for enquiry, discussion, and debate. These interactive sessions are recorded, and can be played back by a student at any time, which also facilitates students who are unable to attend the live sessions.
Independent exploration and learning is encouraged and expected; the material and interaction provided online is designed to stimulate and to guide that exploration. To solidify that learning, each student is required to submit an individual report on a topic chosen from a short list. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

It is recommended, but not essential, that students have completed at least one module in Thermodynamics prior to taking this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
MEEN40120 - Power Plant

Energy Systems & ClimateChange (MEEN40090)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Group report and presentation, to be submitted no later than the end of week 6 Week 6 n/a Graded No


Assignment: Individual Report, to be submitted no later than December 18th. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Brightspace quiz Week 3 n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Brightspace quiz Week 9 n/a Graded No



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

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

The resources listed here are indicative only. Each student is expected to explore the space between and beyond these suggested references, but these constitute a sensible starting point.

* Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.
This is the official IPCC report issued in 2013, as part of Assessment Report 5 (AR5). The full report might appear rather daunting, but the Technical Summary (TS) and - to a lesser extent - the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) summarise many of the key points.

* World Energy Outlook 2018 (IEA WEO).
An annual report published by the International Energy Agency, this is available through UCD Library once your registration is complete. A synopsis, and some online charts, is available at the web link

* BP Statistical Review of World Energy (BP SRWE). The spreadsheet provided by BP constitutes a very valuable source of historic data on global energy consumption, and we make extensive use of it in this module.
* See also the BP Energy Outlook, which looks forwards rather than backwards, at

* World Energy Council review of energy outlooks (April 2019)

Don't expect to read every page of every document listed above: the IPCC AR5 Report, and WEO 2018, are particularly chunky, so flick through them and let your eyes alight on bits that interest you. The main objective is to accumulate background information and knowledge; we will explore specific areas in more detail during the module.