Energy transition MSc launched at Heriot-Watt’s Orkney campus

Heriot Watt’s Orkney Campus.

Heriot-Watt University is launching a new Master of Science degree programme to provide advanced training in the increasingly urgent work of energy transition.

The programme is taught in person at the University’s Orkney campus through the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society (EGIS) and focuses on technologies, systems, processes, and economics, alongside the design of transition projects to move away from fossil fuels and accelerate the integration of renewable energy.

The MSc in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Transition (MSc ReSET) is built around the rapidly growing discipline of Transition Engineering, an interdisciplinary approach to change for unsustainable systems across power, transport, industry, real estate and other sectors.

The programme has been developed by Professor Susan Krumdieck, a mechanical and energy systems engineer from New Zealand who is an international expert in energy transition research and Chair of Energy Transition Engineering at Heriot-Watt University. Professor Krumdieck’s research group have led the development of Transition Engineering as a discipline since the early 2000, with the publication of more than 50 journal papers, seven book chapters, and the text Transition Engineering, Building a Sustainable Future (2020), which sets out how engineers can begin applying Transition Engineering in their work.

“If the world is to decarbonise and reach net zero emissions by 2050, whole systems will have to be redesigned and redeveloped, including energy infrastructure, technology, regulation and markets,” Professor Krumdieck explained.

“A new generation of transition engineering specialists is needed to drive this change – and our MSc ReSET is firmly focused on helping students and professionals develop these vital skills – so they can help to reset global energy systems.”

Over the next decade, HWU experts predict the need for transition engineering will grow across all levels of society, from local communities and small businesses to local and national government, major corporations, renewable energy developers, utility firms and oil and gas companies.

“Our course addresses the needs of multiple communities and organisations who are under pressure to meet net zero targets and address climate change,” Professor Krumdieck said.

“Students will tackle real-world problems – like transition to walkable neighbourhoods, or net zero products – and will learn use of digital tools to model and analyse transition scenarios.”

The course is delivered by experts in renewable energy, economics and transition engineering at Heriot-Watt’s International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT), the University’s Orkney campus, in the coastal town of Stromness. The ICIT is a partner in the Islands Centre for Net Zero (ICNZ), a pan-island distributed innovation centre that will support Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides to become lighthouse communities in the energy transition. Funded by the UK and Scottish Government as part of the Islands Growth Deal, ICNZ is led by the European Marine Energy Centre – a leading international test and demonstration centre for marine energy technologies, green hydrogen and energy systems.

The MSc programme is also delivered online and has four themes: Transition Engineering, Economics and Commercialisation, Renewable Energy Technology and Energy Systems.

The Renewable Energy Technology theme looks at key renewable technologies and how these are developed and integrated into the electricity grid.

Economics and Commercialisation covers topics including the financing, compliance and planning of renewable energy projects, with commercialisation case studies provided by industry experts.

Energy Systems focuses on how energy is supplied, distributed and delivered across buildings, transport and infrastructure, including the technology used by energy users.

Tackling the immensely complex problems associated with rapidly reducing fossil fuel use will require an approach Professor Krumdieck and her colleagues have coined as ‘InTIME Design.’

InTIME stands for Interdisciplinary Transition Innovation, Management and Engineering and basically refers to the creative problem solving that is needed on multiple levels to change how energy is generated, delivered and used.

Professor Krumdieck said: “InTIME Design is the work of changing the unsustainable systems already in use, whether they are buildings, transport, commercial or industrial practices or products.”

Professor Krumdieck holds a New Zealand Order of Merit, a royal honour that recognises outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity. She is also a founding trustee of the Global Association for Transition Engineering, a professional membership network for energy transition specialists.

MSc ReSET instructors include Dr Simon Waldman, a marine renewables expert who is Programme Lead; Dr Sandy Kerr, an Associate Professor in Economics at Heriot-Watt University and Director of the International Centre of Island Technology; Eddie Owens, a Professor of Sustainable Energy with research specialisms including energy forecasting and demand management; and Associate Professor David Woolf in marine energy.