Aberdeen University launches landmark energy transition degree

The University of Aberdeen has launched the UK’s first postgraduate degree programme in Energy Transition Systems and Technologies.

The new course reinforces and builds upon the city’s reputation as a major international energy centre.

It will educate to MSc level a new generation of systems engineers providing industry-relevant skills and training, with future career possibilities in all areas of the energy sector.

Based in the School of Engineering, with expert contributions from the Schools of geosciences, business and law, the new Masters programme will draw on much of the ground-breaking research being conducted within theà‚ University’s Centre for Energy Transition.

The northeast of Scotland already boasts many large scale infrastructure projects such as the Kincardine Floating Offshore Wind Farm, the Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage project and the planned renewable energy superhighway linking Scottish offshore sectors and to the English mainland.

Programme director Professor Russell McKenna said the city’s heritage and global reputation as the energy capital of Europe meant that it was perfectly placed to be hosting the UK’s first such degree programme.

He said: “This course was set up to fill a gap and meet a need. In recent years, non-hydrocarbon based energy has grown significantly in Aberdeen due its large talent pool of energy engineers and scientists, and the abundance of wind and ocean energy resources off the Aberdeenshire coast.

“The past 20 years has seen increased interest in more sustainable energy systems. The transition towards these systems has gathered momentum, aided by new technological innovations in areas such as wind and tidal energy, energy storage, carbon capture and storage, biofuels and hydrogen. Energy transition, however, continues to pose significant technological, commercial and political challenges for businesses and governments.”

Prof McKenna said energy transition engineers “are faced with the challenge of redesigning our entire energy infrastructure while ensuring continued access to reliable and affordable energy”.

“To achieve this, we must understand how to successfully integrate low carbon technologies into our current and future energy systems.”

‘Systems-thinking’ approach
With an emphasis on the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy types through the integration of low carbon technologies into current and future energy systems, the programme will encourage students to take a ‘systems-thinking’ approach to energy transition.

It will also combine technical knowledge of individual low carbon technologies ” including energy efficiency technologies and renewable energies such a wind, solar and ocean energy ” with non-technical aspects, such as economic and political developments.

Karl Axel Pétursson, systems engineering specialist at Vestas, welcomed the new degree programme. “We need highly skilled and trained systems thinkers to enable renewable energy sources to become an ever larger part of the energy system.

“The complexity involved is challenging and a systems thinking toolkit is needed to understand both the technical and social aspects of the transition ahead.”

Breaking new ground
RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said: “It’s great to see that the University of Aberdeen is breaking new ground with this innovative course, which takes a holistic approach by encompassing all these key aspects in an innovative postgraduate degree programme.

Melanie Onn

“We need to attract a wide and diverse range of people into this rapidly-expanding sector and courses like this will create new opportunities in growth industries for the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs.”

Alex Murley, head of project management & optimisation at RWE Renewables, said that in the year of Scotland hosting COP26, “it is comforting to see the University of Aberdeen launch a new degree programme dedicated to creating the industrial and academic leaders of this energy transition’s future”.

The new course is available to study full-time on campus from September – depending on the Covid-19 situation ” or part-time online. For more information about the MSc in Energy Transitions Systems and Technologies, visit https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgt/etst/

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