The future of Ireland’s energy sector depends on the availability of high-quality third and fourth level graduates. UCC has two successful taught programmes in addition to the MEngSc and PhD research projects, namely a taught MEngSc in Sustainable Energy and a BE in Energy Engineering. SERG’s Principal Investigators were instrumental in the design, development and currently the delivery of these programmes.
UCC introduced a taught Masters (M.Eng.Sc.) programme in Sustainable Energy in 2005. This programme is unique in Ireland, providing a one year full-time programme in sustainable energy to graduate engineers. It covers renewable energy technologies, energy integration (into electricity networks and buildings) and energy trends and policies. There are ten taught modules delivered between September and March, followed by a set of exams in May. While attending lectures the students also undertake a preliminary research project in a sustainable energy topic. They carry out a minor thesis during the summer months, building on their preliminary research. The programme engages with the sustainable energy sector in Ireland through invited guest lectures, research project topics and jointly supervised theses.
In December 2008, the third set of graduates emerged from this programme. Of these 23 graduates, 13 secured a Distinction. They will join the others who are engaged in Doctoral research in energy engineering or who are working in Airtricity, Bord Gais, Eirdata, ESB, ESBI, SEI and SWS to name a few employers. The programme is heavily oversubscribed with 290 applicants competing for 25 places in 2009 – 2010. The interest has grown steadily over the years from 153 in 2009 – 2009, 122 applicants in 2007 – 2008 and 77 applicants the previous year. The MEngSc is co-ordinated by SERG’s Dr Brian Ó Gallachóir.
In response to the future demand for energy engineering graduates and based on the success of the taught Masters programme, UCC launched a new level eight B.E. degree programme in energy engineering in 2007. This programme complements the traditional engineering programmes that UCC provides in electrical and electronic engineering, civil and environmental engineering and process and chemical engineering. This new energy engineering programme welcomed 25 1st Year students in September 2008 and 40 in September 2009. As in the case of the Masters programme, it was heavily oversubscribed and attracted high calibre students – those successful in 2009 had secured a minimum of 520 points at Leaving Certificate level. This made it the highest entry level requirements for any engineering degree in Ireland this year.
The critical factors that are attracting students to energy engineering at undergraduate and postgraduate level in UCC are
1) the growing demand for energy engineers The National Development Plan (2007 – 2013) budget allocates €8.6 billion for energy. This, coupled with the ambitious targets to 2020 in the Government White Paper on Energy, points to a long-term demand for energy engineers up to and beyond 2020 in Ireland. This mirrors an increase in demand globally, where the International Energy Agency estimates that a cumulative investment of $20 trillion in energy will be required in the period 2005 – 2030.
2) these engineering degree programmes are building on a strong energy engineering research base. UCC has a significant recent track record in energy research in terms of both funding and research outputs. UCC’s multidisciplinary approach to energy research covers the key areas of relevance to Ireland, namely energy supply technologies (wind, ocean, fusion and biofuels), energy end use (in transport, buildings and industry) and energy policy research (trends and energy systems modelling).
3) the institutional support has been critical. UCC’s College of Science Engineering and Food Science (SEFS) has identified ‘Energy’ as one of five targeted strands of research to be promoted and enhanced within the College. To quote from UCC’s Strategic Framework 2006-2011: “SEFS has already established UCC as the leading university in Ireland for research in sustainable energy and this is rapidly becoming one of our priority areas of interest.” UCC established the first lectureship post in Ireland in energy engineering in 2006.