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Energy and sustainability

Are fossil fuels running out? Can nuclear power, carbon capture and storage or renewable energy sources provide solutions to the problem of global warming? How can we provide clean, safe, sustainable energy supplies for the UK, and the world, despite increasing population levels and affluence? In this module you will look at the basic principles underlying the design and efficient use of energy and energy supply systems. Using a range of study materials and online activities, you will learn to use the appropriate scientific and mathematical techniques applied to energy related issues.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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A really well-presented course with excellent motivation and support offered by the authors. This course was just a fill-in for...
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I'm glad I did this module as it hugely increased my knowledge and understanding of the various energy sources, their...
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What you will study

Each one of us is inextricably linked to energy use, and each of us probably has different perspectives on sustainability. Whatever your energy background and perspectives, this module explores the issues linked to energy and sustainability.

Energy Systems and Sustainability – Power for a Sustainable Future is the core teaching text for this module. You are guided through this book by weekly, online study guides, which include online mathematical and other activities to test your energy-related skills and understanding. There are also informative videos which explain all you need to know about energy.

The online study guides and book cover the following topics:

  • Primary energy – where you’ll explore the presentation and interpretation of data and gain an overview of the world’s primary energy situation, its recent history and its problems.
  • What do we use energy for? A tour of all the different ways of using energy and how these have changed over the centuries.
  • Different forms of energy – you’ll investigate some basic ideas around this subject.
  • Coal – a concise ‘biography’ of this critical fuel in the past and the future.
  • Heat to motive power – a detailed look at this most important energy conversion process that underlies much of the energy services we enjoy from transport to electricity
  • Oil and gas – a look at these close cousins from their formation to the prospect of their ultimate depletion
  • Oil and gas engines – a review of three types of internal combustion engine designs that have influenced the twentieth century.
  • Transport and sustainability – an overview of this fast changing topic from both a technological and behavioural perspective.
  • Electricity – exploring this most critical ‘secondary fuel’ – its history and future as part of a sustainable energy system.
  • Energy in buildings – an introduction to this topic focusing on improving insulation standards and heating efficiency in the housing stock.
  • Nuclear power – a review of the present situation, background science and the types of reactor designs currently in use.
  • The future of nuclear power – an exploration of various issues concerning its immediate and long-term future.
  • Renewable energy – an overview of key renewable energy technologies.
  • Costing energy – learn how to understand basic techniques including discounted cash flow.
  • Penalties – a detailed look at the various techniques for assessing the impacts of energy use – from local air pollution to climate change.
  • Remedies for a sustainable energy system – a critical look at how to make fossil fuel use more sustainable.

You will also have access to an electronic version of the companion volume Renewable Energy and a range of other study materials from our website.

You will learn

By the end of the module you will be able to understand and describe:

  • the forms of energy and the various definitions of ‘sustainable’ energy, and the relevance of sustainability to the design and implementation of energy systems
  • the principal sources of primary energy in use today, their development over the past century, and the general patterns of world, regional and national energy consumption
  • the basic principles underlying the design and use of energy supply systems, and the basic principles underlying the efficient use of energy
  • the pollutants produced through the combustion of fossil fuels, their environmental impacts and the amelioration of these.

You will also be able to demonstrate the following:

  • evaluate different energy technologies, in terms of their economics and environmental impacts
  • compare different techniques available for minimizing the level of pollutants generated by various energy sources and systems
  • compare the relative resource depletion impacts of different energy technologies.

Vocational relevance

You may be interested in a professional career in the energy industry; or may be concerned about the sustainability problems associated with our current energy issues. This module will help you to:

  • undertake cost related analyses of proposed or existing energy projects or technologies
  • present arguments relating to energy use and its impacts taking account of environmental, technological and social perspectives
  • use appropriate scientific and mathematical techniques applied to energy-related issues or contexts
  • analyse information about energy and its use from a variety of sources, using ICT tools
  • communicate scientific and technical information, and arguments relating to energy, clearly in a variety of ways.

Professional recognition

The Open University is a Learning Affiliate Member of the Energy Institute.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

We aim to provide face-to-face tutorials in a range of locations students can travel to, though we cannot guarantee availability close to where you live. Online alternatives may also be provided, and recordings of these will typically be made available to students.

Student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect the locations of where tutorials are held, and what online alternatives are provided. We cannot guarantee that face-to-face tutorials will be hosted in specific locations, or locations that have been used previously. While you're not obliged to attend any of these tutorial events, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Energy and sustainability (T213) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2020.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2023.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good scientific and mathematical background, obtained either through level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

    We recommend that you start with two of the following key introductory OU level 1 modules: Environment: journeys through a changing world (U116), Engineering: origins, methods, context (T192) (or its predecessor T174), Questions in science (S111) or Science: concepts and practice (S112). A good pass in one of these modules would be beneficial to your study of T213.

    You should be familiar with mathematical concepts such as ratios, proportions, percentages, powers, scientific notation and conversion of units. To help you decide if you have the necessary mathematical skills, you can use our online self-assessment quiz. At the end of the quiz you will be given some advice on whether or not you are suitably prepared for this module. 

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


    Start End England fee Register
    03 Oct 2020 Jun 2021 £1548.00

    New to OU? Registration closed. Already an OU Student? If you can pay in full by card you can register here until 02/10/20

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2023.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2021. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 26/09/2020.

    What's included

    You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assessment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access
    • access to student and tutor group forums.

    You’ll also be provided with the printed module textbook, Everett, B., Peake, S. and Warren, J. (2020) Energy Systems and Sustainability, Power for a Sustainable Future (3rd edn). Due to unforeseen circumstances, it’s unlikely the printed copy will reach you for the start of your module. We expect it to be delivered by January 2021. In the meantime, an electronic version is available on the module website.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T213 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.