Top 4 Undergraduate Renewable Energy Courses in the UK

With the energy sector expanding and developing at an unprecedented rate, it is unsurprising that so many universities in the UK have started offering courses in renewable energy. There is little doubt that renewables are in the process of paving the way to a greener future for the whole planet. Countries around the world are pouring billions of dollars into the research and development of renewables and with a bit of luck they will soon account for the majority share of the energy mix.

Those who want to get a more in-depth understanding of renewable energy before they try and join the job market should think about studying it at degree level. While there are dozens of master’s courses with a focus on renewable energy, there are notably fewer for those who want to get into the sector at undergraduate level. But, getting in early and developing your interest in the industry is a good idea – especially for a sector that is rapidly increasing such as the energy sector.

We have scoured the country for relevant undergrad courses and brought you some of the best undergraduate renewable energy courses on offer at the moment. But, watch this space. Over the next 5-10 years this area is going to boom.

Renewable Energy Engineering – University of Exeter

This course has a proven success rate and is tailored for students with an interest in engineering. The focus of this particular course is clean energy sources and students will learn about the technologies that underpin these energy sources. The course includes work placements, field trips both within the UK and abroad and the opportunity to stay on for an extra year and gain a masters degree. The university is perfectly positioned to allow students to get hands on experience viewing and analysing wind and solar farms.

Electronics and Renewable Energy Systems – University of Leeds

Based out of the university’s school of electronics and electrical engineering, this course focuses on mathematics and scientific principles related to electronic engineering. Students will obtain an in-depth understanding of smart grids, renewable energy systems, and energy conversion. With the world moving further and further away from dependency on fossil fuels, the skills learnt on this course will be vital for future progress.

Renewable and Sustainable Engineering – Glyndwr University

With a foundation year included in the programme, the renewable and sustainable engineering course at Glyndwr does a lot of prepare young energy career hopefuls. Those who already have some energy experience can apply to do the course without the foundation year. The course equips students to face the challenge of climate change head on with engineering expertise and the drive to create solutions to the problem. Students will also get the chance to do site visits to local wind and hydro plants.

Renewable Energy Engineering – University of Ulster

The course prides itself on setting up its students to enter into the renewable energy industry. It does this by including a placement year in the third year of the course. During this time, students will be able to work in the renewables sector and gain valuable industry experience. Students have been known to undertake work placements all over the UK and abroad. Modules include circuit analysis; statics, dynamics and thermodynamics; and mechanical science.

Top 4 Energy Careers

Those who have chosen energy as their career path will be delighted to know that this sector has a huge variety of different jobs available and this spread is increasing every day. As the way we use and understand energy continues to develop, jobs will crop up all over the place – particularly in the renewables sphere.

What this means for young hopefuls looking to break into the job market is that they can cast their net wide and still bag themselves a dream career. If you are finding it hard to decide exactly what you want to do within the energy sector then let it be a comfort to know that you don’t need to know specifics. Solid qualifications and a passion for energy are all it takes to get in the door for a lot of companies. Once you’re in, then you can start deciding on a more specialised career path.

So, where do you get started? Unfortunately, you won’t walk straight in to a position in senior management. But, you can still get your hands on a juicy job that offers an excellent career trajectory. Here are a few great energy careers and how to get them.

Environmental Consultant

An environmental consultant is employed by companies to help them comply with environmental regulations and to manage or eliminate damaging effects of their operations. The work is reasonably varied – one day you might be helping a company assess a flooding risk and the next you will be assisting with waste management. There is also a lot of responsibility involved with this job. To bag a career like this you will need at least a Bachelor’s degree and some work experience in the energy sector.


This is an interesting role that has fantastic potential for expansion and growth. Mudloggers work closely with drilling engineers and record their activity in order to provide information about the status of the well. The information that is collected is then used to make important decisions. You may find yourself stationed away from home for a couple of weeks at a time but you can be sure to be well remunerated for this. Mudloggers are well placed to move up the ranks and become drilling engineers. Geology degrees are preferred for this role.

Solar Installer

Fancy a job that is really rewarding? Working in the renewables sector won’t just give you valuable experience in a fast-growing industry, it will also make you feel like you are doing something worthwhile. The world is quickly becoming aware that the future needs to be green in order for us to survive. This means that solar and wind power are being developed at an astronomical rate in order to make the change that is needed. As a result, solar installers are essential as they are in charge of installing the photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into energy. You don’t need a degree for this job but some experience as a technician or electrician can be useful.

Chemical Engineers for Electric Vehicles

There are few things more exciting in the energy sector than the rapid advancement of electric vehicles. The notion that gasoline may one day be obsolete is every green scientist’s dream come true. A chemical engineer working on electric vehicles will use chemistry to design and improve battery technologies and other equipment. You will need to be a smart cookie for this kind of job with a minimum bachelor’s degree in chemistry or chemical engineering – a master’s degree is preferable however.

The Five Essential Components for a Renewable Energy Future

The energy mix that is being consumed by the planet is evolving. No longer are we fully dependent on fossil fuels that release dangerous emissions. The future is all about renewable and sustainable energy sources, in fact the IEA (International Energy Agency) predicts that by the year 2022, we will see renewable electricity generation to increase by over a third.

This is great news for the planet but it is not going to happen without some more technological advancements by the experts in the energy sector. These are five of the crucial components we need in order to see the future of our energy sector develop in the way we want and need it to.

1. Lithium

These batteries are used in hybrid and electric vehicles, which are hoped to replace conventional cars completely in the not too distant future. Lithium-ion batteries are also essential when it comes to storing renewable energy. We have seen these batteries grow and expect them to continue to grow in popularity for several reasons. Firstly, it is incredibly light-weight but has a high energy density. Another reason is linked to its ability to recharge.

2. Cobalt

In addition to lithium, we are seeing a rise in the importance of cobalt as we transition over to renewable energy sources. According to the United States Geological Survey, cobalt is leading the way in rechargeable battery electrodes. Making sure we have plenty of this useful metal will certainly hold us in good stead for the future. Furthermore, The Cobalt Institute, a non-profit trade association, has explained that cobalt is essential because of its role in the cathode of lithium-ion batteries. Wind turbines also use cobalt in their magnets.

3. Copper

It is known that copper plays a vital role in the renewable energy sector. Its many uses include cabling, earthing, transformers and inverters within photovoltaic solar cells according to the ECI (European Cooper Institute). The ECI also stated that copper is used in ‘coil windings’, which are found in the wind energy sector, within the stator and rotor portions of a generator. They are also used in high-voltage power cable conductors and transformer coils.

4. Silicon

No, we don’t mean Silicon Valley. This is real silicon, a non-metal with semi-conducting properties. The DOE (Department of Energy) in the United States said that silicon is the most common material to be found in solar cells. This is because silicon makes cells that are low-cost with a high-efficiency rate that last for a long time.

5. Water

Believe it or not, water is vital in the production of solar power. Virtually all of the big techonologies out there, including parabolic troughs and power towers, need water to produce electricity in a cost-effective and efficient manner. This information comes from the SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association).

Around 20 gallons of water per megawatt hour is used to clean the surfaces of the panels and mirrors that form the solar power generators. One particular facility, located in Nevada (Nevada Solar One) uses 850 gallons of that precious liquid per megawatt hour. This works out to be around 300,000 gallons per acre per year.

The USA Might Not Ever Withdraw From the Paris Deal

When Donald Trump announced to the world that he would be taking the United States out of the Paris Deal, the assumption was that he would actually do that. But, it seems that things haven’t been going entirely to plan based on what was seen at the Bonn summit. The negotiators in charge of sealing an agreement did not seem to be making the dramatic withdrawal he promised.

The Paris Climate Agreement (Paris Deal) was signed in 2015 and laid down goals that signatories should implement into their own national policies with regards to tackling climate change. For a number of reasons, these policies did not appeal to the President of the United States and so he decided to withdrawn his country from the agreement.

Judith Garber, the U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Environmental and Scientific Affairs attended the Bonn summit. During her time there she told other delegates that the United States does not want to completely exclude the possibility of being involved in the global fight against climate change.

Indeed, she said that the nation wishes to continue to be engaged with other countries around the world in order to help move towards a cleaner future. She proceeded by reeling off a list of actions that the United States is undertaking in order to further the battle against climate change.

However, she tempered her positive speech by reminded the cohort that President Trump’s views on the Paris Agreement have no changed and that his position is entrenched. Nevertheless, she indicated that while he wants to withdraw from the deal as soon as he can, there is nothing stopping him from joining back up again in the future if terms that are more favourable to the American public can be agreed upon.

The general consensus by the time Garber had finished was that it may well be the case that re-joining won’t be necessary. This could be the case because the United States might not ever leave to begin with.

It was noticed by onlookers that Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Deal was undermined somewhat by his choice of methods as to how to execute his decision. He could have declared the original entry into the deal to be invalid because Obama did not allow Congress to be part of the decision. This would have allowed the President to withdraw straight away.

What President Trump has done instead has been to go down the official withdrawal route. This process will take over three years and won’t actually be triggered until the day after the next presidential election in the United States. This won’t be until 2020. So, the United States looks like it is going to be locked into this deal for, at least, another six years.

During this time, Trump will continue to send delegates to meetings. A State Department official said that this is in order to “ensure a level playing field that benefits and protects U.S. interests.”

Key Energy Events for 2018

With the new year comes a whole roster of new events to get excited about in the world of energy. NRG Expert has carefully selected some of the biggest events around the world and compiled them into one handy list to help you arrange your calendar for 2018. Read on to find out key details about the events, including location, dates and what exactly will be covered on the day.

Renewable Energy Project Finance Conference 2018 – 22-23 Feb

This is the third annual renewable energy project finance conference and it will take place in the Danubius Hotel in Regent’s Park, London. The conference will look at investment strategies in the renewable sector. Companies with experience developing renewable energy projects will talk about key commercial and legal issues that need to be overcome in order to create a successful project and to make sure investors get good returns.

Fire Protection of Rolling Stock – 28 Feb – 1 March

Taking place in Berlin, Germany, this conference will look at the future of fire standards in the rail industry of Europe. Members of the FPRS community will look at how the industry can work towards better fire safety standards. The conference will explore the challenges as well as the opportunities in the sector. There will also be plenty of time for networking.

GeoTHERM – 1-2March

A combination of trade fair and congress, GeoTHERM has been running for eleven years and has become the biggest geothermal energy event in the world. The event will take a look at the intricacies and details of shallow and deep geothermal energy. This show is a must for anyone with an interest in the geothermal sector.

Kuwait Sustainable Energy and Technology Summit – 3-4 April

This conference will take an in-depth look at the state of the renewable energy sector in Kuwait. Renewables are very much on the agenda for Kuwait as climate change concerns and a need to diversify its economy change the current energy landscape in the country. Kuwait has one of the highest energy consumption rates per capita rates in the world and so research and development in the renewables sphere is of paramount significance.

International SAP Conference for Oil and Gas – 17-19 April

This year’s conference will take place in Lisbon, Portugal. On the agenda for the event are a number of interesting topics that are already making an impact in the energy world and look set to continue to do so. These include blockchain, cloud, SAP Leonardo and machine learning. There will be a focus on digitisation in the industry and this will be covered in the conference’s numerous talks and workshops.

RetroFit Tech Summit and Awards – 10-11 April

Located in Dubai, the RetroFit Tech Summit and Awards will look at helping individuals and companies maximise energy and water efficiency. The event will explore the different financial model and regulatory frameworks that are required for achieving increased energy savings as well as return on investment.

CO2 Reuse Summit – 16-17 May

Zurich will be the proud host of the 2018 CO2 Reuse Summit. This exciting conference will touch on a range of topics relating to carbon emissions and how carbon dioxide can be transformed into fuels, polymers and more. The event will include a number of talks and presentations, case studies, and networking sessions. Be prepared to be amazed by the technological advancements that are being made in this sector.

Bioenergy Conference and Expo – 2-4 July

People from all over the world will be flocking to Berlin this July for an exciting Bioenergy Conference and Expo. The theme for this year is Bioenergy: Mobilizing the bioeconomy and globe through innovation for a sustainable world. The objective is to encourage young people to engage their minds and capacity for research in order to expand the opportunities available in this field.

Improving Oil and Gas Efficiency Through Digital

Operational efficiency is the latest goal for the oil and gas industry. The sector is under immense pressure to become more efficient due to the continued fall of oil prices and subsequent tighter profit margins.

As the oil and gas sector continues to fluctuate economically, the operations have remained pretty much the same. This means that in order to achieve a better level of efficiency, industry members are going to have to take a step back and consider a completely new operations model. This is the only way to make a real difference to production performance.

It is believed that the solution to this conundrum lies with Digital – a term which includes the factors that make up the Internet of Things (IoT). These factors are data, machines and people and the confluence of these areas will have a positive effect on production efficiency. Indeed, the IoT will be able to boost throughput, improve field recovery and create better asset reliability.

It is clear that oil and gas leaders need to effect a fundamental change in how they operate and what kind of strategy they implement in order to really take advantage of digitisation. There are a number of trends being seen in the tech world, such as robotics and sensors, which can help improve field automation in a way that is pervasive.

From discussions with clients whose companies were successful in their drive for better operational efficiency through technology, we can see that they applied the following:

Oil and gas companies that revamp their operations to account for new technologies will stay ahead of the game. Much of what is being developed now in terms of technology is not only going to help oil and gas companies become more efficient, but it is going to completely change the game. This is the way oil and gas companies can become the winners of tomorrow.

Gas fiasco could hit the UK hard

Households and drivers should expect a dramatic increase in petrol and gas prices. This comes in the wake of a myriad of problems, including supply, that has plagued the UK since the winter freeze set in.

Supply was severely affected last Monday after the North Sea’s most important oil and gas pipeline was closed. A later explosion at a major processing facility in Austria then added to the already chaotic situation. There has also been a series of smaller issues, including a Dutch pipeline that supplies the UK being restricted and a North Sea site producing less than half of its usual gas.

The culmination of these events meant that wholesale gas prices reached their highest in six years. The knock-on result is a strong concern that this sharp rise will be shifted over to consumers rather than absorbed by companies.

Indeed, gas is not the only sector affected by the supply issues. Petrol is anticipated to climb in price by 3p per litre before Christmas, which could seriously affect motorists visiting family over the festive period.

Energy companies have been warned by MPs that it would be shameful to hike up their prices for consumers given that wholesale prices are settled on far in advance. Indeed, one MP clearly stated that passing on the price increase to consumers would be incredibly unfair given that it is in no way the fault of the consumer nor is there anything consumers could do to help the situation.

Energy companies are being called on to look after their customers and to honour the commitments they have made. This issue is particularly pertinent given the cold spell the UK is currently suffering, which is driving up demand for gas in households. In some parts of the country the temperature dropped down to -13C.

An analyst for Thomson Reuters said that the amalgamation of problems could mean high prices for the duration of the winter. He added that while we might have enough gas to last us today, it might be a challenge to find what we need for January. Small energy suppliers that haven’t bought energy in advance could find themselves in trouble.

What’s more, the price for wholesale gas for January has risen by around a third, causing serious worries about who will absorb the extra cost. There is understandable concern that it will be the consumers who will be most affected by this hike. Yet, if small suppliers decide to do the honourable thing, there is equally a chance that they could run out of money trying to supply energy and consequently go bust.

The whole debacle raises some serious questions about the UK’s energy security as well as its infrastructure and energy policy. Some are saying that this fiasco was entirely predictable and should have been addressed by politicians a long time ago. One source blamed the government for being “short-sighted and ridiculous” for not investing in more gas storage facilities. Particularly given that the Rough storage facility, situated off the coast of Yorkshire was forced to close earlier in 2017.

The Hoover Dam Can Teach Us a Lot About Renewable Energy

Hoover Dam, originally Boulder Dam, is one of the largest sources of hydropower in the United States. Dedicated in 1935 by President Roosevelt, the dam is a wonder of modern engineering and provides a hefty part of the country with a dependable supply of water as well as clean power. With the world aiming for complete dependence on renewables, the Hoover Dam is more relevant than ever.

If you ever visit Hoover Dam you will be able to take a tour of the facility. This was the case for a recent group of Power-Gen employees who attended the dam. Unfortunately, whilst there, the elevators that take guests down into the tunnels of the dam were out of order. This meant they were not able to explore the facility to its fullest extent. Nevertheless, it was a positive experience and the visitors were shown a film and slideshow all about the dam, which acted as a substitute for the actual, physical tour.

The video informed its viewers of the dam’s technical specifications. Snippets of information as to how the power plant is operated and where the main turbines are located were dispersed and digested by an audience eager to learn. There are 17 Francis turbines in total. Eight of the turbines are on the Nevada side of the Hoover Dam and nine are on the Arizona side.

While the dam is technically located in both Arizona and Nevada, it is controlled by one main hub. Due to the fact that Arizona does not observe daylight savings, the dam works on Nevada time. These were just some of the tidbits of information imparted onto viewers at the Hoover Dam tour.

The challenge with running the Hoover Dam, as explained by a tour guide who works at the plant, is maintaining a balance between producing electricity and regulating water flow. Although the plant is a clean generator, which is fuelled by the abundant and free source that is water, it is not always the first plant to be dispatched. However, despite this, the dam generates something to the tune of 4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity every year.

If you are interested in the Hoover Dam and want to know more about the technical or historical aspects of it, head over to its website where you will find a wealth of information. Of course, if you really want to get to know the Hoover Dam then the best way to go about it is to visit it in person.

The Hoover Dam is an inspiring piece of machinery that was first conceived around 100 years ago and survived the Great Depression. Despite the market crash, the powers that were still pushed the project through and overcame the financial obstacles against which it came up against on numerous occasions.

Let the wonderful reign of the Hoover Dam continue for centuries to come as it provides clean energy and water to people across the United State.

Absorption of Carbon Costs Will Prolong Our Dependence on Coal

As we look towards the future and envisage a world that is entirely dependent on green energy, we need to look at how to reduce our usage of coal. Yet, while discussions generally revolve around coal mining and burning, there is little talk about the vital element that links the two: coal transportation. Transportation amounts to a significant cost of electricity and looks likely to be a cushion that will slow down the process of phasing out coal in the US energy system.

This is the conclusion that has been drawn by Louis Preonas, an Energy Institute PhD student. The paper, “Market Power in Coal Shipping and Implications for U.S. Climate Policy”, demonstrates how railroads make hefty profits from the transportation of coal. Indeed, in order to keep coal-shipping business, the railroads absorb some of the price increases carbon is facing. This is going to have a negative effect on a country trying to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Preonas estimates that the charges levied on generators, associated with their greenhouse gas emission aren’t actually affecting coal profitability as much as it is assumed. As coal prices go up, transportation costs seem to be falling, which evens out overall profits.

Not all railroads are absorbing these extra costs but the impact can be clearly seen at plants that are serviced by just one railroad. This counts for almost half of all coal-fired power plants in the US. Plants that sit near rivers and lakes that have multiple railroad access routes are less able to cushion the blow of the levies and to keep their customer’s plant running.

At the moment the cost of GHG emissions is quite low or non-existent across most of the country so it is difficult to assess the impact GHG pricing will have on coal-fired generation. Nevertheless, the actions of the railroads are an indicator of how transportation companies are likely to react if the carbon price becomes a factor to contend with.

Preonas notes in his work that this practice by the railroads of lowering their prices in order to keep certain plants in business means that greenhouse gas emissions have reduced 8% less than they would have had the railroads not been cushioning the blows of the increased prices. The fracking boom was expected to have a much more significant impact on the level of GHGs being emitted.

The effects of fracking are fascinating and are worth considering but what should really be at the forefront of policymakers’ minds is the effect it will have on the effects of carbon pricing on coal plants. Preonas indicates that some coal plants could have as much as a quarter of their carbon price absorbed, which means they would be operating with 25% less extra cost than other plants.

As of yet, the world does not have much experience with using market mechanisms to regulate environmental pollution. They certainly have much less effect at the moment than legislation designed to control pollution. It will be interesting to see how these market mechanisms develop in the future and to see how effective we can make them.

Alternative Jobs in Energy for Coal Workers

Working in America’s coal industry has always had a promising career trajectory. You don’t need an expensive college degree but you could still bring home a nice six-figure salary.

Unfortunately, as coal is being usurped by other, cleaner forms of energy, the hey-day of the miner seems to be on its way to extinction. With the USA’s dependence on coal reducing, miners are out of work, mines are being shut down and economic stagnation looks like an inevitable result.

So, where do these miners go now that coal is on the decline? It looks like the way forward is to retrain in another area of energy. And, that’s exactly what a certain American subsidiary of a Chinese wind turbine company is doing. The company is offering a training program to former miners to retrain them as technicians.

Other retraining courses in areas such as computer coding and beekeeping are helping American miners make the transition from coal worker to renewable energy expert.

After receiving their work termination notice, a number of miners attended a seminar in a local lecture room, explaining the importance of new energy sources. They were told that training would cost nothing but their time and that upon completion a whole host of doors would be opened to them. The certification they would receive would allow them to operate and maintain wind turbines on a wind farm.

Despite the plummet in jobs the coal industry has seen, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that wind-energy technician will be the fast growing job over the next few years. This is fantastic news for workers who feared they would have to resort to unfulfilling jobs just to make ends meet.

But, wind energy isn’t the only sector that these workers are turning to for opportunities. The solar industry is also booming as it employs thousands of new workers for safety, installation and operations roles.

Yet, this move from coal to renewable energy sources isn’t without some challenges for the workers who are being retrained. The salaries allegedly pale in comparison with what was once paid out for working on an oil rig. However, in an ever-changing economy, the most important thing is to be able to adapt and improvise.

What’s more, the wind and solar sectors look set to be stable in the future, which will provide the former miners with greater job security than they previously had. They don’t need to be constantly anticipating their next lay-off and they will be able to return home to their families in the evenings. Not everyone will see this as being worth the pay cut but it is certainly a silver lining for miners who have lost their livelihood.