The University of Newcastle, Australia
Available in 2019

Course handbook


What would it take for Australian society to function entirely without fossil fuels? It is often stated that 'huge amounts of renewable energy are available' - wind, solar, wave and so forth. But our current energy consumption is also huge. We need to know how one 'huge' compares with the other. We need numbers, not adjectives. This course shows how to estimate the numbers, and what those numbers depend upon.

This course considers the motivations for sustainable energy: finite fossil fuel resources, climate change and energy security. The bulk of the course, however, is devoted to developing a simple quantitative framework for determining which energy proposals 'add up' for Australia, with all major sustainable energy sources considered: wind, solar, hydroelectricity, wave, tide, biofuels, geothermal and nuclear. Methods of reducing consumption are investigated, including better transport and smarter heating/cooling. A range of energy plans for Australia are investigated, making clear the size of changes that society must undergo in order to function without fossil fuels.

Availability2019 Course Timetables


  • Semester 2 - 2019


  • Semester 2 - 2019

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Recognise the key drivers behind increasing demand for sustainable every sources: finite fossil fuel resources, climate change and energy security

2. Employ the key units involved in sustainable energy systems including energy (kWh), power (kW), energy per day per person (kWh/d/p) and power density (W/m2)

3. Discuss the major categories of end uses of energy (transport, residential, commercial, manufacturing and construction, agriculture and mining), and typical energy costs of these uses computed on a per day per person basis

4. Recognise the broad variety of sustainable energy sources in Australia including wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic (PV), hydroelectricity, wave, tide, biofuels, geothermal and nuclear

5. Estimate the energy conceivable available from sustainable sources in Australia, as well as the present usage (computed on a per day per person basis)

6. Recognise the challenges and implications of eliminating the use of fossil fuels


Part 1: Numbers, not adjectives

  • Motivations: the balance sheet
  • Energy and power
  • Solar cars and plans
  • Lighting and gadgets
  • Hydroelectricity; geothermal
  • Wind, wave, tidal
  • Can we live on sustainable energy?

Part 2: Making a difference

  • Better transport
  • Smarter heating and cooling
  • Carbon capture and storage; sustainable fossil fuels, nuclear energy
  • Fluctuations and storage
  • Energy plans for Australia



This course replaces GENG1600. If you have successfully completed GENG1600 you cannot enrol in this course.

Assessment items

Quiz: Quiz 1

Quiz: Quiz 2

Quiz: Quiz 3

Written Assignment: Assignment 1

Participation: Discussion Forum

Written Assignment: Assignment 2

Contact hours



Face to Face On Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term


Face to Face On Campus 1 hour(s) per Week for Full Term starting in week 2