Commonwealth scholarships

You may be interested to know that Commonwealth Scholarships are available for the MSc Energy and Society. Follow this link for further information.


A roundup of Wednesday-Friday, intense teaching week

Carrying on from where we left off in the last post we’ll briefly round up the last few days of our intense teaching week for Context and Challenges in Energy and Society (one of our core modules on the Energy and Society course).

Southampton Geothermal.jpg

Southampton’s geothermal resources have been tapped for use in a large CHP scheme operating locally since 1986

So! Wednesday saw a focus on Future Technologies with Andy Aplin opening the batting with a fascinating and refreshing impartial overview of the potential of Fracking in the UK.  Next up in session 2 Charlotte Adams gave a talk on “Developing the UK’s Low Enthalpy Geothermal Resources” and painting the lesser known picture of heat from geothermal in the UK and the potential for this technology to be expanded to serve domestic and industrial energy needs in the future.


After lunch Douglas Halliday gave a talk on ‘Solar Futures‘; updating us on the cutting edge of solar research before Adwoa Asantewaa rounded up the day with a presentation on Electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

The theme for Thursday was ‘Policies, politics and violence’ (with a touch of wind power at the end!). The day was kicked off with a presentation on the Energy Policy of the EU by Christian Schweiger, next up was The violence of energy politics (including a critique of the Resource Curse) by John McNeish who has joined us for the week visiting from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Third was “Extractive” development in post-conflict Peru, or politics by other means at the extractive frontier’ by Juan-Pablo Sarmiento-Barletti before finishing the day with a presentation by Chris Crabtree on Wind Power.


Moving to Friday Ahmed Bokash gave us a presentation first on ‘Understanding the Grid’ to bring those of us with a little less technical experience right up to speed, before John Bothwell gave an enlightening talk on ‘Bio-Energy’; giving a great overview on bio-energy and biofuels from 1st to 4th generation. With John’s talk and the subsequent seminar session sadly our intense teaching week came to a close; we’ve had a fantastic week and would like to thank all of the speakers we’ve been lucky to hear from over the last 5 days for coming to speak to us.



‘Coal Day’ of intensive teaching week

The second day of our intensive teaching week focused on coal, specifically the rise and fall of coal in the North East of England.

Sandra Bell kicked the day off with a great introductory talk entitled ‘Carboniferous Capitalism and the North East of England’. Sandra started right from the beginning with coal’s early association to the monasteries before explaining how rights to coal mining were then held by the state. This changed locally in 1239 when Newcastle was granted a royal charter to lessen restrictions on the extraction of coal. By 1334 Newcastle was the fourth-wealthiest town in England, based on its coal trade spurred on by demand driven by the growing iron and glass making industry.

The lack of wood in the 18th century led to a growing demand for coal for domestic heating, this drove mines deeper and was aided with the development of the Newcomen Steam Engine in 1712; to pump out the new, deeper mines and later of course James Watts’ improved version from 1769 onwards – a pivotal moment for coal as the relationship between steam and coal was formed. Fast forwarding slightly Sandra explained the vast scale of the coal industry in the north east; the region’s 400 pits employing 250,000 men and producing 56 million tonnes of coal/year at its peak in 1913.

Sandra also explained the shift in power from the coal companies (with their annual bond for 1 year’s labour) to the introduction of a two week contract in 1872, as well as the rise of the unions… A seminar and lunch break later we re-assembled outside of Anthropology for a coal walking tour of Durham; learning about the rich coal heritage that surrounds us as we go about our studies in Durham this year.

We made slow progress into town; stopping frequently for Sandra to enlighten us with her fantastic knowledge of the history of Durham. The last stop of our walk was at the grand Durham Miners Association Headquarters where we were kindly given a talk in the council hall, explaining the history of the DMU, of the building itself, as well as plans for its future.

As afternoon turned to evening we concluded our Coal Day with a drink at the Market Tavern in the centre of town, a tavern where on 20th November 1869 a meeting of delegates met and established Durham Miners’ Mutual Association. A big thank you to Sandra, as well as the DMU, for the time you gave to us today.





9 down, 6 to go…

We’re now over half way through an intensive teaching week which comprises of: a fantastic 15 lectures delivered by 15 different presenters, several group debate sessions, one ‘coal tour of Durham’ and and not to forget, one trip to the pub. Dr Abram has put all of this on for one of our core modules ‘Context and Challenges in Energy and Society’ so it’s about time we fill you in briefly on what we’ve been up to and who we’ve been hearing from…


Monday – Day 1

Lecture 1: Monday morning bright and early we assembled in ‘The Penthouse Suite’ of Collingwood College to have an introductory presentation by Professor Simon Hogg (Executive Director of the Durham Energy Institute) on the state and direction of electricity supply in the UK. Although a broad field to tackle in one session it didn’t stop Professor Hogg from getting stuck into explaining some of the technicalities a changing grid represents… The differing thermal expansion properties of turbines and their casings for example, means the more flexible we want turbines to be, the less efficient they become – a fascinating insight.


Lecture 2: Next up Kamal Badreshany gave a talk on ‘The development of energy intensive ancient technologies: considering social and environmental aspects’. The presentation drew on examples primarily from the Ancient Near East and went into great details discussing the  nature and development of the two ‘eras’ of energy use – the Organic Energy Economy (OEE) of about 4-500,000 years ago to ca. 1700 followed of course by the Fossil Fuel Economy (FFE) of which we remain rooted to up to the present day…


Lecture 3: After lunch in the third session Professor Chris Stokes from the Durham Geography Department gave us an up to date overview of climate change and went on to explore his area of specialism, glaciology, in the second half of the presentation. We engaged with topics such as the rapidly disappearing mountain glaciers, the thinning of Greenland’s ice cap, the number of cities situated at, or below, present sea level and what melting mountain ice caps could mean for drinking water needs of 1/6th of the world’s population.



Lecture 4: And then for the fourth and final session of day 1 Rob Layton came to give a lecture entitled ‘Natural Resource Management – how did we get to where we are at?‘. The talk was wide and varied and drew on Rob’s studies from all over the world, in particular though it drew on his studies of gathering communities in Australia, on sustainable and non-sustainable resource management; the tragedy of commons, as well as following the path of the development of grains and cereals in the Middle East…

A fascinating and very varied series of lectures from our 4 speakers on day 1 of this intensive teaching week; thank you!