A clean, affordable and reliable energy supply is crucial for the well-being of industrialized economies and the development of emerging ones. Developing future sustainable energy systems requires education in a large number of scientific disciplines.
To enable future engineers to rise to this challenge,
ETH Zurich offers a Master’s degree programme
in Energy Science and Technology (MEST), coordinated by the Departments of Information Technology & Electrical Engineering (host department) and Mechanical & Process Engineering, supported by the Energy Science Centre.
The transition towards a more sustainable supply and use of energy requires drastic change within the energy sector. This poses significant challenges across all aspects of integrated energy production, distribution, the economic context and the global interdependencies. The MEST programme provides you with the fundamentals needed to tackle these complex challenges.
Integrated Energy Production and Distribution
Traditionally, for many years, power generation simply followed load demand. Storage units were used mainly for techno-economic optimisation, allowing large base-load power plants such as nuclear or coal-fired power plants to operate at a constant and full- load operation point despite the fluctuating pattern of load demand. The remaining variations between scheduled generation and actual real-time load demand, caused by stochastic effects on both generation- and demand-side, were balanced via reserve capacities.
In recent years, this is changing due to a number of reasons:
- The widespread deployment of variable Renewable Energy Sources (RES) (solar, wind, thermal, biomass) in many countries has led to a significant share of highly fluctuating power generation that is not easily controllable.
- The growing energy market activity on the increasingly integrated national and trans-national energy markets has led to more frequent changes in the operating set-point schedules of power plants.
- The emergence of smart grids as a driver for change in power system operation at all grid levels.
Collectively, these developments constitute a major paradigm shift in the management of energy generation and load portfolios: in the future load demand will increasingly have to follow the fluctuating power generation of RES.
As this transition will require drastic changes in the energy sector, it is critical to understand, evaluate and quantify the micro- and macro-economic implications of such a transition. Effective and robust energy policies in today’s market economies have to recognise the role of economic incentives in determining the energy supply and demand decisions of firms and households in various sectors of the economy, as well as in international markets.
Future market environments should be designed to ensure adequate investment incentives for electricity generation and transmission capacity and to guarantee sufficient temporal and spatial flexibility of power generation in light of fluctuating renewable energy sources. The dynamic aspect of the energy transition further entails considering the macroeconomic drivers and mechanisms for economic growth and their interrelationship with specific aspects of the energy sector such as, for example, technological innovations, resource costs, capital intensity and market structures.
In addition to these regional challenges, the supply of energy is becoming increasingly dependent on global interdependencies. For instance, the discovery and exploration of shale gas in the U.S. has an influence on the price of globally traded and transported coal, which in turn influences the price of electricity produced in coal-fired power stations in Europe.
Understanding the energy challenges of tomorrow means understanding these interactions between different energy producers and carriers in different spatial and temporal dimensions.