Identifying needs and ways to integrate sustainability into energy degree programmes
Mälkki, Helena (2018-12-07)
Lappeenranta University of Technology
Acta Universitatis Lappeenrantaensis
School of Energy Systems
School of Energy Systems, Ympäristötekniikka
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This dissertation focuses on the changes needed in energy education in order to integrate sustainability into the courses of energy degree programmes at technical universities. Education is an important driver of and energy plays a vital role in the development of sustainable solutions locally and globally. As designers, decision-makers and managers, energy engineers must not only possess sustainability knowledge but also the skills necessary to ensure the best sustainable energy solutions for society. In spite of the importance of sustainability in both energy and education, sustainability has been poorly integrated into energy education curricula. This lack of integration motivated the present exploration of sustainability approaches, teaching concepts, and methods to be recommended to guide teachers in the integration of sustainability concepts into energy education as well as to enhance students’ understanding of the comprehensive nature of sustainability. This dissertation presents a pedagogical approach to combining sustainability, energy and education by utilising the possibilities of life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology in research-based teaching to promote sustainability knowledge and related skills in students. Qualitative and quantitative research methods have been used to identify the future skills needed in the energy sector, to update the content of energy courses, and to provide guidelines for the use of LCA in research-based teaching for assessing the sustainability of energy systems. In particular, a quantitative method has been demonstrated to measure the sustainability content of learning outcomes with the aim of helping teachers in curriculum planning and discussing the sustainability levels of their energy courses in energy degree programmes. This proven method is capable of revealing the strengths and weaknesses of the present status of sustainability in energy courses. In addition to traditional LCA, there is a growing need for the use of consequential LCA when planning for sustainability of energy systems and related investments at the societal level. To enhance sustainability in energy education, sustainability learning outcomes play a crucial role in integrating sustainability into energy degree programmes. Additional recommendations concern the training of teachers to adopt the sustainability dimensions and the use of LCA methodology to instruct their students about LCA assignments and projects. However, further research is necessary to define the sufficient levels of the sustainability components of energy degree programmes. Moreover, the incentives and barriers should be identified case by case to effectively foster the integration of sustainability into energy education. In conclusion, all energy programme students should be provided with a sufficient understanding of sustainability during their energy study path in order to be able to communicate and make decisions regarding optimal sustainability solutions in their work places after graduation.
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