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Syllabus for

Academic year
FFR170 - Sustainable energy futures  
Framtida hållbara energisystem
Syllabus adopted 2018-02-22 by Head of Programme (or corresponding)
Owner: MPSES
7,5 Credits
Grading: TH - Pass with distinction (5), Pass with credit (4), Pass (3), Fail
Education cycle: Second-cycle
Major subject: Energy and Environmental Systems and Technology, Chemical Engineering with Engineering Physics, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering

Teaching language: English
Application code: 39117
Open for exchange students: Yes
Block schedule: B
Maximum participants: 140

Module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 Summer course No Sp
0104 Examination 7,5 c Grading: TH   7,5 c   29 Oct 2020 am J   07 Jan 2021 pm J,  26 Aug 2021 pm J

In programs

MPTSE INDUSTRIAL ECOLOGY, MSC PROGR, Year 1 (compulsory elective)


Sonia Yeh

  Go to Course Homepage


General entry requirements for Master's level (second cycle)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Specific entry requirements

English 6 (or by other approved means with the equivalent proficiency level)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Course specific prerequisites

Documented calculation skills, basic knowledge of energy conversion and at least 7,5 HE credits worth of courses in sustainable development or environmental science.


The course should give the student knowledge of the general development of the energy system (past development and outlook for the future), its environmental and resource impacts, as well as tools to analyze these developments.
The overall aim of this course is to address the following questions:

  • How will climate change policies reshape the world energy system over the next century?
  • What role may increased energy efficiency, renewables, fossil fuel and nuclear power, play in the near and long term future if the climate challenge is to be met?
  • In which sectors are limited energy resources most efficiently used, e.g., should biomass be used for transportation fuels or for heat production?
  • Which climate policies are needed for a cost-effective solution to the climate challenge?

The aim is to illustrate these issues by drawing upon recent research in the area, and based upon this to discuss and problematize existing visions for a sustainable energy future.

Learning outcomes (after completion of the course the student should be able to)

  • apply the concepts and tools presented in the course (see below under Content) to analyze real-world problems related to energy systems
  • explain the difference between marginal and average electricity, and apply this knowledge to solve the problem in specific context
  • describe how climate policy instruments work such as cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax, and reflect upon advantages and disadvantages compared to other policy instruments
  • explain the concept of climate sensitivity and what implications the uncertainty in this parameter will have on the temperature impacts of our emissions, and how much we need to reduce emissions if we want to meet the below 2-degree target of the Paris agreement
  • discuss the significance of climate negotiations such as the Paris Agreement, and whether they are sufficient to meet the climate target(s)
  • describe the complexity of controversial energy technologies such as carbon capture and storage, bioenergy or nuclear power, and to present the major arguments of both sides
  • explain why energy efficiency measures are often not implemented, even though they may be more economically attractive
  • explain what options grid operators have for dealing with large amounts of variable renewable electricity sources like solar or wind power
  • calculate the levelized cost of electricity, given fuel costs, operation & maintenence costs, and investment costs and discuss the pros and cons of using it to evaluate a technology
  • calculate how much uranium is required to operate a nuclear reactor for a year, and how much plutonium is produced
  • make appropriate assumptions when available information on a problem of the above type is incomplete
  • perform back-of-envelope calculations to make rough "sanity checks" of energy systems questions. For example: if a family installs solar cells on the roof of their house, would the modules provide enough electricity (on average) to power their electric car?
  • distinguish facts from moral values. Discuss Hume's Law (one cannot derive an "ought" from an "is") when doing energy analysis. Discuss what to do about environmental problems related to energy use.
  • discuss the moral responsibility of individuals versus governments when it comes to solving the climate problem


  • Systems analysis - system boundaries, scale, space & time, emission allocation problems, net energy analysis, marginal vs average electricity

  • Energy economics - cost efficiency, discounting, investment analysis, prices vs costs, supply & demand curves, external costs, opportunity costs

  • Climate science and emission trends - current and historic emissions, climate sensitivity and its uncertainty, implications for future emission reductions, burden sharing between developed and developing countries

  • Policy instruments - carbon taxes vs cap-and-trade schemes, direct support vs technology neutral policies, and other instruments

  • Energy efficiency - end-use efficiency, price elasticity of demand, the energy efficiency gap, rebound effects

  • Fossil fuels - history of fossil fuel use, future availability, peak oil, shale gas and other new technologies

  • Carbon capture and storage - capture processes (post-combustion, precombustion, oxyfuels), transport and storage options, leakage risk, costs

  • Nuclear power - nuclear physics and fuel cycles, basic light water reactor design, safety, waste management, link to nuclear weapons, nuclear power in the global energy system

  • Intermittent renewables - grid integration of solar and wind power, global potential, recent growth and cost development, solar heating and cooling, solar fuels

  • Bioenergy - biofuel production, land use and implications for food production, emissions from direct and indirect land use change

  • Other topics - power grids, energy use in the transport sector, batteries, fuel cells and hydrogen, energy in the developing world, international climate politics


The course consists of lectures (including several guest lectures), calculation exercises for homework and discussion in class, and student debates on issues in energy and environment.


  • Course compendium
  • Solving the climate challenge by Christian Azar (Swedish title: Makten över klimatet).

Both are sold at Cremona (the Chalmers student litterature bookstore).

Examination including compulsory elements

Written exam and active participation in student debates.

Page manager Published: Thu 03 Nov 2022.