Undergraduate Teaching 2023-24

Engineering Tripos Part IIB, 4M23: Electricity and Environment, 2023-24

Engineering Tripos Part IIB, 4M23: Electricity and Environment, 2023-24

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Module Leader

Prof M Pollitt


Professor M Pollitt


Dr Stephan Goetz

Timing and Structure

Lent term. 2 hour sessions delivered in person. Assessment: 100% coursework.


A basic engineering knowledge of electricity (first year undergraduate) and a familiarity with the units and notation associated with energy science and engineering is an advantage, but not essential. Assessment will be structured so as to be accessible to students from a range of backgrounds.


The aims of the course are to:

  • provide students with a firm foundation in modern electricity policy with an emphasis on the UK.
  • introduce students to a wide a variety of mature and emergent electricity generation and demand side technologies.
  • expose students to the local, regional and global environmental effects of energy use.
  • introduce the key considerations of energy policy and develop frameworks by which progress against policy goals may be achieved.
  • discuss issues with electrification of heating and transport.


As specific objectives, by the end of the course students should be able to:

  • critique scenarios for the future UK electricity system out to 2050
  • evaluate and compare the efficacy of different electricity generation technologies
  • understand current and future electricity policy options
  • appreciate how economics and engineering interact in a sustainable electricity system


This module is a postgraduate module of Cambridge Judge Business School. It has its origins as an elective course of the MPhil in Technology Policy and the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development. The module is of the standard size adopted in the Engineering Department and the Judge Business School, i.e. a nominal 16 hours. The course is delivered via one two-hour lecture each week for eight weeks.

We take the Great Britain electricity system as a working example which we will refer to throughout the course.

Overview - Class Introduction (Michael Pollitt)

Lecture 1

  • History of Electrical Power and Energy Policy
  • Fundamentals of the UK and USA Electricity System
  • The nature of the current UK electricity bill and electricity market
  • UK Energy Policy and Politics
  • Principles of good energy policy

Environmental Effects of Fossil Fuel Use and what to do about them (Michael Pollitt)

Lecture 2

  • Local Emissions and Impacts
  • Putting a Price on Damages?
  • Economic approaches to externalities
  • Pricing carbon
  • Experiences of the EU Emissions Trading System and carbon pricing in Australia

Electricity Demand (Michael Pollitt)

Lecture 3

  • Economics of Electricity Demand
  • The economics of smart energy services
  • Technological aspects of electricity demand
  • Social aspects of electricity demand
  • Demand side policy

Fossil fuel generation, storage and future electricity markets (Michael Pollitt)

Lecture 4

  • Current status of fossil-fuel power generation
  • Economics of Carbon Capture and Storage
  • The economics of electricity storage
  • Business models for the internet of energy
  • Future electricity market design

Renewables and the Electricity System (Michael Pollitt)

Lecture 5

  • Renewables context
  • Potential for renewables in the UK
  • Place of renewables in electricity system
  • How to subsidise renewables
  • Lessons from around the world

Electrification of heating and transport? Electricity in Net Zero (Michael Pollitt)

Lecture 6

  • Electrification of everything?
  • Decarbonising heating with electricity
  • Decarbonising transport with electricity
  • ​​Sector coupling and modelling Net Zero
  • Policy recommendations for Net Zero

Electricity Networks for Net Zero (Stephan Goetz)

Lecture 7

  • Conventional and modern electric power systems
  • Power electronics – enabling technology in power conversion
  • Transport electrification
  • Datacentre power supply

Nuclear Power, Electricity Security and EU Policy (Michael Pollitt)

Lecture 8

  • Nuclear Power Technology
  • History and Economics of Nuclear Power
  • EU and UK energy security
  • National security of electricity supply
  • Meeting UK targets by Electricity Market Reform
  • Good electricity policy?


Coursework Format

Due date

& marks

Essay on the 2035 decarbonisation challenge facing the UK electricity system.

Learning objectives:

  • To discuss the challenge of decarbonising the UK electricity system by 2035.
  • To cover both the economic and engineering challenges facing the UK electricity system.

Individual Report

2000 words

anonymously marked

22 March 2024




Expected reading:

Glachant, J-M., Joskow, P. and Pollitt, M. (eds.) (2021) Handbook on Electricity Markets. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Online on iDiscover.

Ozawa, M., Chaplin, J., Pollitt, M., Reiner, D. and Warde, P. (eds.) (2019) In Search of Good Energy Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Online on iDiscover.

Recommended reading:

Taylor, S. (2016) The Fall and Rise of Nuclear Power in Britain Cambridge: UIT Printed book at: JBS: HD9698.G72 T39 F3 2016 UL: C212.c.2239

Jamasb, T. and Pollitt, M. (eds.) (2011) The Future of Electricity Demand Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Printed book at: JBS: HD9685.G72 J35 2011 Engineering: DE.190 UL: 235.c.201.356 (South Front 6)

MacKay, D.J.C. (2009) Sustainable energy without the hot air. Cambridge: UIT E-book via withouthotair http://www.withouthotair.com/download.html Printed book at: Engineering: DE.164


Examination Guidelines

Please refer to Form & conduct of the examinations.


This syllabus contributes to the following areas of the UK-SPEC standard:

Toggle display of UK-SPEC areas.


Develop transferable skills that will be of value in a wide range of situations. These are exemplified by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority Higher Level Key Skills and include problem solving, communication, and working with others, as well as the effective use of general IT facilities and information retrieval skills. They also include planning self-learning and improving performance, as the foundation for lifelong learning/CPD.


Apply appropriate quantitative science and engineering tools to the analysis of problems.


Demonstrate creative and innovative ability in the synthesis of solutions and in formulating designs.


Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential facts, concepts, theories and principles of their engineering discipline, and its underpinning science and mathematics.


Have an appreciation of the wider multidisciplinary engineering context and its underlying principles.


The ability to make general evaluations of commercial risks through some understanding of the basis of such risks.


Understanding of the requirement for engineering activities to promote sustainable development.


Awareness of the framework of relevant legal requirements governing engineering activities, including personnel, health, safety, and risk (including environmental risk) issues.


Ability to use fundamental knowledge to investigate new and emerging technologies.


Understanding of and ability to apply a systems approach to engineering problems.


A thorough understanding of current practice and its limitations and some appreciation of likely new developments.


Understanding of contexts in which engineering knowledge can be applied (e.g. operations and management, technology, development, etc).


A comprehensive understanding of the scientific principles of own specialisation and related disciplines.


An understanding of concepts from a range of areas including some outside engineering, and the ability to apply them effectively in engineering projects.


An awareness of developing technologies related to own specialisation.

Last modified: 09/01/2024 10:31