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The University of Southampton

SESM6032 Sustainable energy systems, resources and usage

Module Overview

The module provides an understanding of general energy concepts and how to apply energy related techniques gained through specialist courses to every-day situations. We will also take a look at the energy flows around our planet and consider issues such as the greenhouse effect. Questions that will be discussed in this course include: - How do we use energy? - How long will fossil fuels last? - What are the principal barriers to hydrogen economy?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Historical evolution of energy production and usage and the link to economic development [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EL9M]
  • Exploitation of fossil fuel resources [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EL9M]
  • Fuel cycles and link to environmental impact [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EL11M]
  • Origins of the renewable energy sources based on energy flows around the Earth [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EL11M]
  • Alternative energy systems such as hydrogen economy [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EL12M]
  • A general introduction to solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and ocean energy [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EA5M]
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Examine fossil fuel depletion by Hubbert's theory [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes P9M]
  • Discuss the radiative balance of the Earth using a simple model [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EL9M]
  • Analyse environmental impact of energy technologies [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EL9M]
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Develop analytical skills based on observed data [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EA7M]
  • Apply theoretical techniques to real-life situations [Contribute to EAB learning outcomes EA6M]


This module consists of four themes: (1) Energy and the urban environment (2) transport, energy storage and the hydrogen economy, (3) fossil fuels (4) earth energy flows and renewables (1) Energy usage in an industrial society: Historical introduction. Sankey diagram, energy sectors. Integration. CHP, energy in the built environment. (2) Hydrogen economy. Properties, sources and methods of production and storage of hydrogen. Examples of automotive applications of hydrogen as a fuel. (3) Fossil fuels: Reserves and resources. Hubbert's theory of resource depletion. Fuel cycles: coal, oil & gas. Environmental impact. (4) Earth energy flows: Radiative energy balance of the earth, the greenhouse effect. Global circulation of air in the atmosphere. A brief overview of renewables: Solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and ocean energy.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include Lecture, Supervision and Seminars (if speakers available), and revision which develop the themes described in this module. Learning activities include • Individual study of social, environmental or economic aspects of energy. • Discussions during/after lectures and seminars.

Wider reading or practice64
Completion of assessment task20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

BP Statistical review of world energy.

Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air.

Course resources on Blackboard.

UK energy statistics.

International Energy Agency.



MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 20%
Final Assessment  80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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