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GD311 - The Energy Trilemma

  • Module code: GD311
  • Module name: The Energy Trilemma
  • Department: Global Sustainable Development
  • Credit: 15

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

Global energy markets are in a period of dramatic transition. The emergence of shale gas, mostly notably in the US, has been disruptive to the industry, leading to falling oil prices. This has challenged the long-time dominant position of international oil companies (e.g. BP, Shell, ExxonMobil) in the petroleum sector. Natural gas has emerged as a potentially important ‘bridging fuel’ to a low carbon future, with several leading national economies, including China, making the switch from carbon-intensive oil and coal to this ‘lower-carbon’ alternative. Away from oil and gas, renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly cost competitive and are gaining societal and governmental support. The energy transition alters the global dynamics of energy security, with some countries finding their energy independence challenged, whilst others enjoy the economic growth that is inherently linked to energy abundance. A similar distinction can be made between populations with regards to energy equity: the accessibility and affordability of energy, and as with energy security this too is in a state of flux due to changing market conditions. These three dimensions – sustainability, energy security and energy equity constitute an ‘energy trilemma’; the focus of this module. The module addresses the challenges posed by the trilemma to national, regional and local economies, and in developing, emerging and developed economic contexts. In addition to the trilemma’s aforementioned dimensions, the module will also consider concerns of energy efficiency, ‘green growth’, sustainable energy governance and cooperation, and technology and infrastructure. In this regard, the module will broaden the student’s knowledge and understanding of the key issues around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7

Principal learning outcomes

Upon completion of the module, students will be able to: • Identify the leading issues around energy security, equity and sustainability across different economic and geographical contexts; • Critically analyse the differing approaches of national and regional governments in managing energy resources and pursuing sustainable energy futures; • Demonstrate a deep understanding of the significance of energy to economic growth and societal well-being; • Appreciate the value of engagement between universities, governments, industry, non-government organisations and communities in developing sustainable energy solutions; • Illustrate an understanding of the critical role of technology and innovation to sustainable energy futures; • Demonstrate further development of their research skills; • Critically analyse and synthesise academic findings and industry research into clear and concise outputs that are tailored for several different audiences.

Timetabled teaching activities

10 x 2 hour seminars in Term 1 5 lectures in Term 1

Departmental link

Other essential notes

Available at 15 CATS only to Global Sustainable Development (GSD) students in Term 1. Not available to students outside GSD.

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
15 CATS (Module code: GD311-15)
A (Assessed work only) Discussion Brief (2500 words) 50%
  Essay (2000 words) 30%
  Group Poster Presentation 20%
VA (Visiting students only) 100% assessed (visiting/exchange students) 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:

  • Undergraduate Global Sustainable Development (L8A1) - Year 3
Optional Core