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Smart Energy and the Built Environment MSc

Gain the skills to be at the forefront of the smart energy revolution and lead the transformation to a sustainable global energy system.

Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment
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About the programme | Teaching and Learning | Modules | Careers and Employability | Who should apply | Why choose UCL Energy Institute | Further information 

Highlights

  • Be part of a cutting-edge programme delivered by leading academics at the UCL Energy Institute that aims to train you to be a pioneer in the exciting new field of smart energy and the built environment.
  • Develop skills in modelling, statistics and data analytics, social sciences, communication and business to address real challenges we face in creating a sustainable energy system.
  • Apply your new knowledge and skills to real case studies, engaging in a stimulating multidisciplinary and multicultural environment.
  • Learn the important role of smart energy systems for the energy transition: the nature of energy demand in the built environment and the physics and social factors that shape it; the role of renewables, storage and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies; business models; and the role of regulation and policies.
  • Benefit from a programme of lectures, course work and projects aimed at promoting independent, creative thought and innovation by encouraging problem-solving and critical thinking. 

    About the programme

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    To fight climate change global electricity generation is moving away from simply burning fossil fuels. Instead, we are moving towards zero-carbon nuclear, renewable sources and capturing and storing the carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants. However, these methods of generating electricity are inflexible and lack the convenience of traditional fossil fuels, where generation is easily adjusted to meet the electricity demanded by consumers. This has led to significant global investment into smart energy systems: a revolution in the way our energy system works, by shifting flexibility to consumption. These digital technologies and their rapid progress are set to make our energy systems more connected, reliable and smart. New business models, tariff structures and policies are required to enable the transition. The built environment, which is the largest end use sector and is associated with 40% of global energy demand, is central to these changes.
     
    UCL's Smart Energy in the Built Environment MSc is developed to provide knowledge on the value of smart energy in the built environment and the wider system. It is also designed to provide the skills to take on the challenges we face. The programme brings together both physical and social perspectives of energy demand and supply. This will help you understand how the sociotechnical system of local energy can be designed and commissioned to deliver effective policies and economic priorities. You will learn how key components of a smart energy system work, integrate and interact with energy policy and business opportunities, including building energy efficiency, renewable energy, decentralisation, the Internet of Things (IoT), storage and energy market design.  
     

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    Teaching and learning

    The programme comprises eight modules and a research dissertation. It aims to help you develop a successful career in this emerging sector through developing your skills, knowledge and network. We draw on the wide expertise of the UCL Energy Institute to deliver an engaging programme, addressing the key knowledge relating to the multidisciplinary scope of the smart energy in the built environment sector.

    You will learn:

    • The key concepts of smart energy and the built environment, set in the context of the wider energy system and existing buildings. 
    • The physical principles of the performance of buildings, the energy systems within them and of distributed energy system assets, such as energy storage and renewable electricity generation. You will be particularly focussing on how these characteristics relate to enhancing the flexibility and lowering costs in a smart energy system.
    • The role of the smart energy system for society, its structure and regulation and the role individual behaviour and social structures play in delivering the energy transition.
    • How energy data and IoT technologies can help transform the way we use and save energy.
    • The role of new business models in delivering such change.

    The course material is connected to cutting edge research and industry, enabling you to relate and apply your learning to real problems. Lectures, seminars and online content are complemented by a strong emphasis on learning by doing: applying knowledge to case studies and problems in workshops and tutorials. For example, you will be familiarised with leading software tools through supervised computer lab sessions, and will also develop detailed insights from case study analysis of the social and societal impacts of smart energy technologies and services.

    Developing skills and networks

    Smart Energy in the Built Environment MSc aims to support you in developing an exciting career in which you can make an impact by reducing carbon emissions and enhance the quality of life of building occupants by working at the forefront of an emerging sector. The programme is developed with employability as a key priority, with a focus on skills relevant to the workplaces of graduates in the sector. We address both technical and transferable skills, including statistics and data analysis, modelling, communication skills, critical thinking and social sciences. You will be encouraged to develop your own solutions to energy problems through both individual assignments and group work, collaborating with peers. 

    Coursework is designed to reflect the demands of a job in the sector and the different career paths you may take, such as writing a consultancy-styled report, a project summary for the general public, an academic paper and a report for policymakers, in addition to giving presentations. You will also benefit from a programme of guest lectures and seminars to provide an opportunity to consider career options, learn more about the challenges and opportunities the sector faces, and expand your network.

    Teaching Staff

    Dr Cliff Elwell
    Programme Lead

    Associate Professor in Energy and the Built Environment
    View Cliff's Profile
    Send Cliff an email

    Dr Despina Manouseli
    Deputy Programme Lead

    Lecturer (Teaching) in Energy Demand
    View Despina's Profile
    Send Despina an email

    Tadj Oreszczyn
    Professor of Energy & Environment
    View Tadj's profile

    David Shipworth
    Professor of Energy and the Built Environment
    View David's profile 

    Catalina Spataru
    Professor in Global Energy and Resources
    View Catalina's profile

    Paul Ruyssevelt
    Chair of Energy & Building Performance
    View Paul's profile


    Modules

    The MSc SEBE programme includes five compulsory modules (15 credits each) that cover the essential material for graduates of this multidisciplinary programme. You will further choose three optional modules (15 credits each), from ten available, an opportunity to specialise and explore topics of interest in greater depth. Assessment for these modules includes written examination, presentation, and written reports in the styles of academic papers, policy recommendations and a consultancy report. Finally, you will undertake a research dissertation (60 credits) on a project within the remit of the MSc. This topic may be proposed by yourself, an academic, or industry partner.

    Compulsory modules

    Fundamentals of smart energy and the built environment (15 credits)

    The development of smart energy systems will bring about opportunities to achieve environmental and social goals, but bring challenges to the way we build, renovate and operate properties and the systems within them. The introduction of smart energy systems has the potential to transform the way that we consume energy and generate electricity, forging a new relationship between demand and supply. This module will draw together the key concepts of smart energy and the built environment, putting them into the context of the current energy system and built stock. It will introduce key policies and regulations, and emphasise the potential role heating and cooling play within a smart energy system. The module will explore the performance of the built stock, and how this may be improved to support system operation, reduce costs and provide better services to occupants. 

    The module will be taught through lectures, flipped lectures and hands-on workshops, enabling students to develop an understanding of the physical effects associated with energy and buildings, their potential role in a smart energy system, and the policy landscape. No prior knowledge of physics or social sciences will be assumed; reasonable numeracy skills are expected.

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    Energy systems in society (15 credits) 

    ‘Energy systems in society’ addresses the challenges of placing consumers at the heart of the energy system. With generation and consumption increasingly embedded in our buildings and communities, greater social engagement in energy is inevitable and essential. This module will introduce students to the role individual behaviour and social structural issues play in delivering the energy transition. Substantively, the module will focus on technologies and energy systems, the performance of which is highly dependent on user behaviour. Both technology acceptance (social acceptance of energy infrastructure, as well as consumer acceptance of end-use technologies) and technology use (both of owned end-use technologies and energy services) will be addressed. The module will introduce key social science concepts to students, ranging from anthropology and psychology, through social psychology and behavioural economics, to social practice theory and other sociological theories. 

    Throughout the module interdisciplinary and multi-method approaches to the analysis of socially dependent energy technologies will be emphasised, along with an emphasis on application of critical thinking skills. 

    Introduction to Smart Energy Data and Statistics (15 credits) 

    The first aim of the module is to introduce the scientific theory and application of statistical analysis to smart energy data. Data visualization, sampling methods and hypothesis testing are presented, followed by inferential statistics such as parametric t-tests and analysis methods ranging from descriptive statistics to correlation and multivariate analysis using RStudio. Students will learn to carry out simple data analysis tasks using energy related data, an essential skill for any career path in the Smart Energy sector. 

    The module also introduces students to how the Internet of Things technologies, combined with energy data monitoring and control technologies, may be applied in the built environment. Their increasingly important role in reducing costs and increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction is discussed. The module assumes no prior knowledge of statistics. 

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    Modelling community energy systems (15 credits)

    This module introduces modelling energy demand and energy systems. It explores the role of the built environment in the whole energy system, with a focus on the integration of renewables, demand response and storage. The spatio-temporal nature of energy demand and distributed energy generation will be highlighted and explored. The module discusses the benefits of developing such models, in addition to their limitations. In particular, the use of models to inform policy making and strategy in industry will be explored. 

    Students will develop skills in modelling, and the visualisation and discussion of results, through applying their knowledge to develop techno-economic models of case studies. 

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    Smart Distributed Energy Systems (15 credits)

    Distributed energy systems are expected to play a strong role in the future smart energy system. This module builds on the Fundamentals of Smart Energy and the Built Environment module to focus on active energy demand technologies in the built environment, the potential for flexibility in their operation, and renewable energy technologies. It introduces the physical concepts underpinning these technologies, their interaction with the built form, how they may be controlled as part of a smart energy system, and the policies and market drivers for this transition to the way in which we consume and produce energy.

    Technologies include:

    • Heating, cooling and a transition to low carbon heating: gas boilers, hydrogen boilers, combined heat and power, heat pumps, district heating and air conditioning.
    • Appliances and lighting.
    • Renewable energy generation and storage associated with the built environment – photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, battery storage.

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    Dissertation

    At the end of the third term you will be required to submit a 10,000-word dissertation, on a topic of your choice, in agreement with the programme director. This may address an issue of professional relevance, or reflect an academic interest, provided it relates to the aims and themes of the programme. Where possible, students will be encouraged and facilitated to work with external policy and energy practitioners in accessing research sites and generating data.

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    Optional Modules 

    Data Analytics in the Smart Built Environment (15 credits) 

    This optional module will enable students to develop their skills in data analytics, and understand how such methods may be applied to increasingly smart built environments. It builds on the basic statistical knowledge of introductory modules, such as the “Introduction to Smart Energy data and Statistics”, targeting students aspiring to a role in the energy industry involving data analysis, and those with a special interest in more advanced methods in data management, analytics and programming.

    This module will introduce a range of statistical methods, including machine learning, that can be applied to better understand energy and the built environment. The methods will be applied to smart energy data using RStudio to investigate topical issues, such as the use of data for technological (e.g. control) purposes, economic drivers (cost optimisation) and health issues (identifying potentially unhealthy environments).

    Social Value and New Energy Business Models (15 credits)

    Social Value and New Energy Business Models will introduce students to how businesses in a future flexible energy system can unlock growth and benefit from developing integrated energy solutions for customers, optimizing the distribution platform, and generating low- carbon energy. New Low carbon business models are presented, including transactive energy, vehicle to grid, and carbon capture, storage and use. It discusses a range of possible future energy scenarios as well as options for local networks and buildings, taking into account the influence of different stakeholders (local government, property owners, tenants, social landlords and others) and local constraints and opportunities. The module is primarily delivered using the case-based teaching approach, where each week students will apply knowledge gained from this module to the analysis of new business model cases.

    Systems Thinking and System Dynamics (15 credits)

    This module teaches system dynamics modelling, a powerful method for the analysis and design of complex systems. System dynamics helps understand problems characterised by complexity, policy resistance and/or multiple stakeholder views. It will also help you design systems to account for the interaction of socio-technical aspects in the built environment. Several applications, simulation analyses and a management game will be included. Concrete cases comprise Heating, Ventilation and Rebound, Urban Dynamics, Project Management and others. The module is assessed by a ‘Problem conceptualisation report’. This is similar to an academic paper but without a proper literature review and with a great focus on problem conceptualisation and analysis. The students can build a quantitative or qualitative model, usually of a self-chosen issue.

    UK Energy and Environment Policy and Law (15 credits)

    This module focuses on assessing whether legal and policy responses to environmental challenges are successful. Energy and environment policy have been extensively implemented in the UK, often as a result of international agreements or EU policy, and often in fairly complex policy packages or mixes. While UK policy experience in these areas is unique, there are nevertheless interesting lessons to be drawn in respect of other countries.

    Industrial Symbiosis (15 credits)

    The module has two primary aims. First, to introduce students to the role of industrial ecology and industrial symbiosis in moving towards more sustainable industrial systems, including discussion of key challenges and obstacles. Second, to equip students with relevant methodological and analytical tools for the practical implementation of industrial ecology principles to the design of industrial parks, industrial systems and
    urban areas. By the end of the module, students should be able to understand the concepts of industrial ecology and industrial symbiosis as well as Circular Economy, have a basic knowledge of main methods and tools for the practical implementation of these approaches such as Material Flow Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment. They should also have the ability to apply these methods to real world and business problems, to understand opportunities but also challenges around increasing resource efficiency in industry and to define strategies to turn waste into resources and exploit business opportunities associated with it.

    Energy, Environment and Resources in Developing Countries (15 credits)

    This module examines the energy and resource issues facing developing countries. It will provide students with the opportunity to apply the tools and knowledge learnt elsewhere in the course to developing country contexts, where the challenges encountered may be substantially different from those faced by high income countries. The module will cover key theories and frameworks for understanding energy, resources and development, and will use case studies to illustrate the importance of local contexts in shaping the outcomes of energy and resource governance and use.

    Energy, People and Behaviour (15 credits)

    This module introduces students to some of the main social science theories used to understand energy related behaviours and lifestyles and how they could be changed. Students critically evaluate and compare these theories and critically evaluate their usefulness for energy technology, modelling approaches, and energy policies and programs. The disciplines covered are: Behavioural Economics, Social Psychology, Sociology and Science & Technology Studies.

    Teaching is largely through interactive facilitated discussion in seminars, rather than lectures. Therefore, students must read the ‘required reading’ prior to every seminar, bring their summary of that reading to the seminar and participate in the seminar discussion. The readings are primarily academic journal articles written in fairly advanced English; some readings include quite challenging and theoretical investigations.

    Business and Sustainability (15 credits)

    This module is designed to help students develop an in- depth understanding of how sustainability can create value for businesses. It introduces students to the necessary principles to measure, manage, and report corporate sustainability performance in terms of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL). Also, the module analyses the role played by sustainable and responsible investments in the overall performance of businesses, and establishes the link between businesses’ sustainability obligations and financial success factors. In addition, the module explores the role of sustainability in companies’ risk management efforts, and looks at ways to hedge climate-change related risks. It also explores sustainability accounting, examines how and why sustainability should be reported, and assesses different strategies for sustainability improvement. Finally, this module addresses practical applications of TBL principles to management issues in different sectors: extractive, energy-intensive, land/water- incentive, consumer products/demand sectors, technology, media and social media and healthcare.

    Metrics, Modelling and Visualisation of the Resource Nexus (15 credits)

    This module gives a deep understanding of the processes that are required to design and build a quantitative model for research. The choice of model paradigm is discussed in terms of understanding data and metrics as well as modelling techniques. The module identifies fundamental analytical techniques and computational methods used to develop insights into system behaviour, and introduces a range of models that are used to examine the resource nexus (e.g. energy-land-water). The module has a series of hands-on workshops in which you will learn how to analyse the potential impacts of new technologies, policy change, market, regulatory and policy change. Moreover, it is designed to provide a practical understanding of how interactions between different resources (energy, water, land, minerals and food) could be translated into metrics and models together with a great visualisation approach. The module has an eminently practical approach and aims to equip students with some practice through modelling exercises (“toy” model) giving them the opportunity to experiment with different scenarios and analysis; to understand the process undertaken to arrive at a suitable quantitative model, driven from an understanding of data and metrics; to understand a range of problems related with various forms of the resource nexus and the changes needed to be made to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs).


      Careers and employability

    There has been significant global investment into smart energy systems, low carbon technologies, novel strategies to manage energy demand, and the integration generation and storage into the fabric of the built environment. These are supported by rapid advancements in digital technologies that are set to making systems more connected, intelligent and reliable. To design and commission these systems highly skilled specialists are required, with a deep understanding of the nature of energy demand in the built environment.

    Smart Energy in the Built Environment MSc is designed to equip you with a variety of necessary skills for a career in:

    • Energy consultancies 
    • Public sector
    • NGOs
    • Energy start-ups 
    • Institutions which value expertise in energy and the built environment. 

    This Master’s will provide you with an understanding of the energy system, its smart, flexible operation, and the role of the built environment in this. You will learn the fundamentals of this field through physical, social and data-driven approaches, to develop an understanding of the opportunities for business, and to support policy making in the transition to a net zero carbon energy system. Industry experts will be invited to give guest lectures to ground your learning in in real world application as well as to keep you up-to-date with the latest in the field.

    You will also gain many transferable skills in presenting structured arguments, communicating findings to different audiences and team-working skills from innovative methods of learning. Our research-based curriculum teaches you how to undertake independent research, identify research questions and design a research project to answer them, but also how to gather, organise and analyse evidence effectively, strengthening both your critical and your creative thinking skills. Such skills would be useful should you wish to pursue PhD research following your Master’s. 

    Industry views

    Dave Worthington, Managing Director of Verco:

    The success of Verco’s mission to provide the solutions that our clients need to transition to net zero emissions within the next decade is largely reliant on the recruitment and development of team members with an exceptional mix of skills and knowledge. This includes a deep understanding of the interrelated nature of buildings and infrastructure and the role of regulatory, technological and behavioural solutions, which aligns well with the scope of this MSc.  With many residual challenges to be overcome on the route to net zero, we are looking for individuals with firm foundations on the technical and commercial practicalities of smart energy systems in the built environment which they can then adapt and rapidly evolve in a dynamic market."

    Sonny Masero, Chief Strategy Officer at Evora:

    At EVORA Global, the real estate investors and asset managers that we work with see the transition to net zero carbon as their No. 1 environmental, social and governance priority. The pathway to net zero carbon and climate resilience lies in our smarter use of energy so these technical skills in the built environment are something we actively seek out. They enable our clients to have a positive impact with their capital allocations".

    Who should apply?

    Students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to join the MSc SEBE: energy and the built environment is a multidisciplinary subject. We are seeking a cohort of students from a diverse range of backgrounds including physics and related physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, geography, psychology, social science, architecture, planning and economics. You should hold an Upper Second Class or First degree in one of these disciplines. 

    We also welcome applications from those with a different degree discipline and a minimum of 3 years of relevant experience.


    Scholarships and funding 


    Why choose UCL Energy Institute? 

    • The QS World University Rankings (2021) places The Bartlett, our faculty, as the #1 for Architecture/Built Environment studies in the UK and #2 in the World.
    • Education from leading academics who boast a long-standing track-record of excellence in energy and environmental research – Our Faculty’s research received the most world-leading ratings for research on the Built Environment in the UK in the most recent Research Excellence Framework.
    • Our well-established strong established relationships with key figures in industry, policy and academia, who often give guest lectures
    • An inclusive environment that promotes global citizenship, and an ethos of equality and diversity
    • Studying in London, a city of culture at the heart of UK's seat of government and finance

    Further information 

    • For key information, including how to apply, visit the UCL Graduate Prospectus
    • Please note that for overseas students this programme is subject to the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). Should your application be successful, after you receive your formal offer from UCL you will need to apply for an ATAS Certificate before applying for your student visa. Full list of requirements and exemptions can be found on the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) section of the UCL Students website.
    • For admissions enquiries, please email bseer-studentqueries@ucl.ac.uk
    • For further questions about the programme, please contact the Programme Lead, Dr Cliff Elwell
    energy MSc