School of the Environment-University of Toronto

CRE 400- Principles Of Renewable Energy


This course investigates the principle types of renewable energy, as well as historical and technological challenges, and their place in the current global market. The place of renewable energy in society as a whole is examined through individual, political, corporate, and industry perspectives.

The current flow of energy into the growing global economy is not sustainable. Renewable energies have become increasingly popular and more common with policy drivers being put in place to increase consumer use and production of renewable energy.

This course will investigate the principle types of renewable energy, as well as historical and technological challenges, and their place in the current global market. The place of renewable energy in society as a whole will be examined through individual, political, corporate and industry perspectives.

Modern society had relied upon largely non-renewable energy production processes which have large scale detrimental environmental impacts. While there has been historical use of renewable energy, low production with often intermittent availability, and the inability to capture and store this form of energy have limited its usage. Today, renewable energies are becoming more widely utilized and promoted at various scales and with variable success. As the general population becomes more aware of the impact on the natural environment by fossil fuels and nuclear energy, renewable energy is becoming more commonplace.

The study of renewable energy requires an understanding from a multitude of perspectives, drawing upon skills from numerous areas. Policy drivers for renewable energy can be critical for both developed and developing nations, often requiring different approaches and decision-making processes. This course is designed to engage the student, to bring understanding to the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the incorporation of renewable energy, and bring to the student a set of skills that they can utilize in the decision-making process for renewable energy.

The goal of this course is to give the student an understanding of renewable energy from various scales, including the Canadian and global context, with an eye towards the developed and developing nation divide. The student will study the natural science, political nature, and policy approaches to renewable energy, how different renewable power can be utilized in a wide variety of settings, and how policies drive these renewable markets.

Historically, renewable energy powered growth of early human societies. Fossil fuels powered the rapid growth in the industrial age. With the ever-increasing need for energy, fossil fuels have been found to be limiting due to their finite source and dirty production. Today, with the widened focus on the need for renewable sources of energy and production of energy which reduces impact on the environment, renewable energy is taking centre stage. There is the need to understand the environmental concerns and policy drivers in renewables.

In many sectors of the economy, it is necessary to understand potential placement for renewable power and how various stakeholders affect the outcome of their production. Through course readings, discussions and course content, students will become familiar with important historical and current issues in renewable energy, approaches and processes used in the strategies employed to put renewable energy into production.
By the end of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Understand the different forms and current levels of technology of renewable energy
  • Know key historical perspectives on renewable energy and how these perspectives have shaped the current perspective
  • Connect strategies employed in production and usage of renewable energies to a number of case studies and on multiple scales (local, national, and global)
  • Know the key organizations and bodies which study, regulate, and manage renewable energies
  • Understand the interrelationships between various components in policy drivers and production of markets as they apply to renewable energies.
  • Describe the various stakeholders and legislation in different renewable energy production
  • Understand the nature of problems associated with production and management of renewable energies


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