Renewable & Sustainable Energy
The Renewable and Sustainable Energy (RSE) Specialization is intended to develop practitioners in the clean energy and decarbonization field. The world is undergoing a massive transition to a zero carbon economy, with clean energy as the central focus. RSE students will develop a balanced understanding of the technology, policy, and business aspects of the energy transition, including elements of equity, resilience, and human health that will be the cornerstones of a successful future.
This course examines energy policy and the problem of sustainability through a variety of disciplinary and topical perspectives: historical, political, behavioral, techno-economic and legal. A critical approach is applied to arguments about energy policy processes, systems, and desired outcomes, with special emphasis on the role of renewable and sustainable energy in the changing global energy system.
This course examines the basics of energy technologies and energy delivery systems. Covers both conventional energy sources (oil and gas, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric) and renewable/sustainable energy technologies (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and end-use efficiency). Investigates individual technologies as well as integration of multiple technologies on energy systems such as the electricity grid and liquid and gas fuels infrastructures.
Students choose 2:
The goal of nearly every green building project, corporate entity, or municipality is to reach net zero carbon or net zero energy. For most of these entities, this concept is an abstraction, and is not well understood. This class reviews the fundamentals of green building, from LEED to Energy Star, as well as other rating systems. It discusses the various definitions of Net Zero Energy and Carbon and the various certification programs that support it. It then helps develop an understanding of behind-the-meter renewables and battery storage and the financial case for their development. Lastly, it explores the range of policy levers and best practices for cities to reach their zero carbon goals – focusing on low carbon electricity supply, electrifying buildings, and electrifying and diversifying transportation options, while also addressing community equity, health, and resilience.
One of the main interest areas among RSE students is the Renewable Energy Development industry. These are companies developing utility-scale and behind-the-meter wind and solar projects and transmission development, which are a central driver of the energy transition. The class will include an overview of the development process from identifying a market opportunity, developing and permitting a specific site, and calculating and presenting deals to off-takers and utilities. It will then provide an overview of project finance — where the money comes from, how different sources are layered together, how tax credits factor in, and how the risks of various parties are managed. Students will leave the class with a foundational understanding of the process and tools to work in the RE development space.
The ability for a given sustainable energy technology to gain widespread adoption depends on the markets and policies that control their access and value. Within the US, we have both regulated and unregulated territories for electricity and natural gas. We have wholesale markets, resale competitions, and vertically integrated regulated territories. We have utilities and state PUCs that embrace and incentivize electrification of various end uses, and we have those that are actively opposed to it. This class will review the various regulatory structures and markets that exist (including the various ISOs and RTOs), the overarching federal policy structure and entities that govern them, and the opportunities for utilities, renewable energy developers, and end-users to engage with those markets and work within and navigate the completed energy landscape.
This course is intended to explore the way in which different countries around the world are approaching their transition to a carbon free economy, highlighting the technologies, policies, economics, and the emerging field of Just Transition that underlie each countries’ approach. The classroom portion of the course will take place throughout the spring semester, meeting weekly for 1.25 hrs. It will set the stage for the travel portion of the trip to two or more countries in northern Europe, with the intent of witnessing some of the key zero carbon technology and infrastructure solutions. The in-country portion of the trip is anticipated to take place over a 12 day period (including travel), with a base in Copenhagen, Denmark and anticipated visits to Malmo, Sweden, and the surrounding area.
Important note: these specialization requirements were updated in August 2022 and are applicable for current MENV students beginning the program in August 2022. All other MENV students should refer to their cohort’s curriculum for degree requirements.
Students must take a total of four RSE courses (12 credits): two required classes and two other RSE courses.
Other RSE Elective options:
Addresses the business of renewable energy, including opportunities and challenges with renewable electricity, renewable transportation fuels, and energy efficiency. Topics include energy markets, opportunity identification, life cycle analysis, economic analysis, policy impacts, and project financing of sustainable renewable energy business models.
Explores ways of searching for and collecting relevant data and presents ways of cleaning, understanding, analyzing, and presenting such data. This class will require a basic understanding of mathematical concepts, statistics, and computer programming with a focus on the ability to use the R statistical programming language.
Other RSE-Adjacent Elective options:
The transportation sector is undergoing a revolution, with the sharing economy, new mobility options and technology advances changing not just how we travel but changing the makeup of cities themselves. This course will prepare students to be knowledgeable and effective practitioners in this revolution. Current transportation topics and policy debates will range from how we design our streets, to managing congestion, and how we price and pay for it all.
This course will begin with an introduction to the power grid including planning and operations for the transmission and distribution level power grid. The course will reflect that while many of the solutions to the integration of variable generation are technical in nature, policy and economics play a large role in the changes that are occurring within the power system. After examining the technological specifications of the most important variable generation sources (wind power, solar photovoltaics, and solar thermal power), as well as traditional power generation sources, other aspects of power system planning and operations in the future power grid will be examined in detail.
Provides an introduction to energy law and regulation in the United States. Covers basic principles of rate regulation and public utilities, the division of jurisdiction between federal and state governments and the key federal statutes and regulatory regimes governing natural gas, electricity and nuclear power. Focuses on the basic federal frameworks for natural gas and electricity regulation, with an emphasis on understanding the messy and uneven transition to wholesale competition in these sectors and, in the electricity context, the experience with state restructuring and retail competition.
Explore sustainability strategies at the community scale and the drivers of decision making and investment in sustainability action. We will explore various approaches to sustainability with the goal of answering the question, “How do sustainability leaders engage with diverse stakeholders and decision makers to implement effective, equitable solutions to environmental problems?” We will select topics and case studies within Colorado that represent different kinds of challenges for sustainability planning and programs and evaluate solutions for each.
Provides students with the knowledge to characterize, analyze, assess and plan, urban systems, primarily those of water and landscape. Students will understand the nature of built systems in the urban environment, with particular focus on the urban water cycle and green infrastructure.