Session 4

The Energy Big Picture


Session 4 - Part I presents multiple student projects Energy Country Analysis.

Part II presents the Energy Big Picture: introducing key learnings on each source of energy separately as well as an integrated system: the top producing & consuming countries, industrial processes, CO2 emissions & other associated risks, and critically analyze the arguments of the sector companies to promote that source.

The Focus Module Urban Planning & CO2 illustrates how some choices made by society dramatically determines CO2 emissions.

Course Outline

Quiz on Session 3
Student Projects: Country Analysis
Energy as a system
Key learnings on each source

Key Learnings

General observations:

1. No energy is clean:

  • Each source has risks & pollutions: their nature and intensity vary greatly from one source to another.

2. Remain critical on the words used:

  • Renewable energy: sunlight is renewable over our time horizons, but the materials used to produce solar panels are not.
  • Green energy: what does green mean?
  • Energy transition: the really fast increase in energy consumption with a relatively constant mix with 80% fossil fuels

3. Always analyze the bigger picture and avoid the "Myopia Syndrome"

  • Myopia Syndrome: comparing two elements within a too narrow perimeter,
  • Example #1: consider natural gas as a "cleaner energy" because it emits marginally less CO2 than oil when used, while it emits massive quantities of CH4 over the value chain because of leaks.
  • Example #2: calculate a wind turbine carbon intensity without integrating CO2 and CH4 emissions coming for the necessary use of natural gas to compensate the wind.
  • Example #3: focus too much on the supply-production side of the energy market, without considering the demand side.

4. Complexity: integrate as many constraints as possible to develop realistic analyses.

Assembled Energy Big Picture

Multiple Constraints:

National Energy Resources:

  • Non-renewables: which reserves?
  • Renewables: geographic and climatic potential.
  • Energy infrastructures: value chain, technical knowledge, investment capacities?

Domestic Demand & Uses:

  • Volume: how much energy is used today? In 20+ years ?
  • Mix: what type of energy do we need?
  • Developing countries: what aspirations for development to improve basic living conditions (and so increase energy consumption)

Environmental Objectives:

  • Climate: how much CO2 do we emit? What carbon intensity? Aligned with the Paris Agreement?
  • Other pressures on the environment: raw materials, water consumption, land-use, air and water pollutions, waste…

Geo-strategic Situation:

  • Sovereignty: how much do we depend on other countries? On which countries do we rely?
  • Risk exposure: how exposed are we to disruptions in the supply chain?
  • Reliability: which back-up options do we have? How interconnected are we? 
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Pedagogical Note

The pedagogical advantage of this method is that a 3-hr top-down course developing all the content would be both boring and inefficient.

Instead, students are asked to work first at home on the energy situation of one country. Recording their presentation at home enables to gather and share analyses on many countries.

Warning: the documents have been prepared by students with significant time constraints. They might contain inexactitudes & mistakes.

During the course, the teachers provide corrections and complementary information when necessary. We have chosen to publish these documents to provide a better overview of the pedagogical approach of the course.