Sustainable Energy Challenges


Course Objective

The course “Sustainable Energy Challenges” introduces students to key
aspects of the energy transition from a socio-economic perspective.
Besides a brief introduction into the technological aspects of the
energy transition, the lectures will focus on the economic, societal and
political conditions for sustainable energy generation, distribution and
use. In addition, the course will stimulate the students to develop
their own ideas for business models that could accelerate the energy

After following this course, students should be able to:
1) Understand the basic technical and economic principles underlying
today’s energy generation,
distribution and consumption around the globe and have an idea of the
possible pathways into a
sustainable energy future.
2) Understand the economic, social and environmental challenges related
to the energy transition
and critically discuss possible solutions and strategies for the
de-carbonization challenge.
3) Know about a diverse set of policy instruments and strategies that
can be implemented to
support the energy transition.
4) Make judgments about which principles, policy instruments and
approaches are likely to be
most efficient, equitable and/or effective in addressing the energy
5) Identify niches for sustainable energy innovations.
6) Understand the main components of a successful business model and
apply this in designing a
business plan for a novel energy service or product.
7) Demonstrate a capacity to operate in a multidisciplinary team and
constructively contribute to
the development of a shared project.
8) Synthesize information into a pitch for a non-academic audience.

Course Content

Our current fossil fuels-based energy system is not sustainable.
Environmental externalities like CO2 emissions leading to global climate
change as well as air pollution urge the world to transition
towards a more sustainable renewables-based energy system. Apart from
the environmental impacts of the way we currently produce and use
energy, energy is central to nearly every major
challenge and opportunity the world faces today, such as sustaining
employment, security or food production. Furthermore, access to clean
and sustainable energy for all is essential and part of the
UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015). The transition towards an
affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy system can be accelerated
by investing in renewable energy sources, prioritizing
energy efficient technologies and practices, and by building a clean
energy infrastructure.

The course "Sustainable Energy Challenges" is built on a series of 10
lectures and seminars by VU lecturers and selected guest speakers to
introduce students to key aspects of the energy transition from a
socio-economic perspective. Every lecture will be a combination of
theory and evidence-based discussions, relating theoretical arguments
with recent experiences and examples in the domain of the transition to
sustainable energy.

The course is built on 4 main blocks:
1. Technological aspects of the energy transition (greening energy
generation and distribution)
2. Policy frameworks for the energy transition (climate and energy
policy instruments)
3. Economic perspectives (carbon markets, energy markets, support
mechanisms to promote
renewable energy)
4. Thematic sessions, e.g. on:
- Sustainable energy consumer behaviour
- Energy for the South
- Zero energy buildings

Apart from the (guest) lectures, the course contains a six-week
assignment carried out in groups of 4 students.
In this graded group assignment, students will develop a business plan
for a clean energy innovation.

Teaching Methods

The course is worth 6 ECTS credits which corresponds to 168 hours of
work per student.

The course comprises two sets of activities. The first takes place in
classes, where information is presented through lectures, presentations,
debates, seminars etc. The second includes assessments where the
ability to achieve the course’s objectives is tested. Assessment
involves group activities (a group presentation and a written
assignment), and
the exam. Feedback opportunities are included through group meetings as
well as assessments.

Approximate time allocation:
• Class: 28 hours
• Reading and exam preparation: 70 hours
• Assignment: 60 hours
• Presentations: 10 hours

Method of Assessment

Type of assessment:
• Group assignment (A) and Group presentation (Pres) worth 40% of the
final grade
• Written exam (E) worth 60% of the final grade
• Minimum grade to pass the course: 5.5. It is not possible to
compensate one component with another
• It is compulsory to attend the group presentation session


See course manual on Canvas

General Information

Course Code AM_468018
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. J.E. Blasch
Examiner dr. J.E. Blasch
Teaching Staff dr. J.E. Blasch

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture
Target audiences

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