Abstract

Energy demand is expected to grow this century as more countries seek a better quality of life for their citizens. The growth in energy demand will be met by a global energy mix that is undergoing a transition from an energy portfolio dominated by fossil fuels to an energy portfolio that includes a range of fuel types and energy conservation measures. This paper describes an Energy Engineering course for undergraduates that will increase the quality and quantity of engineering graduates as they embark on careers in the public sector and the emerging energy industry.

Introduction

Energy demand is expected to grow this century as more countries seek a better quality of life for their citizens. The energy demand will be met by a global energy mix that is undergoing a transition from an energy portfolio dominated by fossil fuels to an energy portfolio that includes a range of fuel types. Fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil and gas) were the fuel of choice during the last half of the 20th century. The 21st century will see a gradual transition from the dominance of fossil fuels in the current energy mix to an energy mix with a more balanced distribution of energy options. The goal of the transition is sustainable development: the integration of social and environmental concerns into a development plan that optimizes economic profitability and value creation as the world undergoes the transition from non-renewable fossil fuels to renewable fuels and a sustainable, secure energy infrastructure. This paper describes a 1 semester, 3-credit hour Energy Engineering course for undergraduates that will increase the quality and quantity of engineering graduates as they embark on careers in the public sector and the emerging energy industry.

Energy Options

The literature contains several sources, such as References 1 through 10, that present a description of the energy sources that are available or are expected to be available during the 21st century. Several different energy options that should be discussed in an Energy Engineering course have been described previously10. They include fossil fuels; conventional and non-conventional sources of natural gas; nuclear fission and fusion; active and passive solar energy; renewable fuels such as hydroelectric, wind, synfuels and biomass; energy derived from waves and tides; geothermal energy; energy derived from hydrogen; and cogeneration.

Energy Forecast

Several energy forecasts have appeared in the recent literature11,13–18. Even though the assumptions, methodologies and results presented in each of these predictions are debatable, they all show an energy infrastructure in transition. The trend in the 20th century was a move away from fuels with many carbon atoms to fuels with few or no carbon atoms, a "decarbonization" process discussed by Ford11 and Ausubel12. Ausubel defines decarbonization as "the progressive reduction in the amount of carbon used to produce a given amount of energy" (pg. 18).

Sustainable Development

The goal of sustainable development is to integrate social and environmental concerns into a development plan that optimizes economic profitability and value creation. One industry response to environmental and social concerns in the context of sustainable development19 is the ‘triple bottom line’. The three components of sustainable development, and the three goals of the triple bottom line (TBL) are economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental protection. The focus of TBL is the creation of long-term shareholder value by recognizing that corporations are dependent on licenses provided by society to do business.

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