Renewable energy is a topic which is at the forefront of energy development. The global drive to manage, mitigate and prevent climate change has seen the contribution of renewable energy, as an alternative to traditional fossil fuels, to global energy generation increase significantly over the past decade. The growing importance of renewable energy as a solution to the global climate crisis has seen extensive research undertaken and necessitates substantial future research to be conducted. This has made renewable energy a highly popular choice for dissertations, both with undergraduates and for postgraduate studies.
When selecting a dissertation topic that is focused on renewable energy it is important to choose a topic which presents a novel and engaging approach. There is an extensive body of published literature which the dissertation topic should enable critical engagement with. However, it is important to ensure that a selected dissertation topic does not simply rehash previous research, the development of renewable energy is constant and presents opportunities for numerous dissertations which examine key issues and debates including those related to sustainability, energy security, justice, equality and development.
- Governing the Renewable Energy Transition
- Renewable Energy and Energy Security
- Emerging Renewable Energy Technologies
- Renewable Energy in Developing Countries
- Renewable Energy within the Circular Economy
Governing the Renewable Energy Transition
Governance is and will be a highly important component of the regime shift to renewable energy. Government policies have the potential to support, guide and increase the rate of the energy transition, equally, there is the potential for ineffective policies to hamper the transition to renewables-based energy sectors. A successful transition will require a transformative governance which encourages the integration of knowledge across all aspects of the energy sector and enables the development of a sustainable and just renewable energy-based society. Under this purview falls some dissertation topics which are highly relevant to current events, namely the on-going global Covid-19 pandemic and how it and similar disruptive events may have a negative impact on renewable energy deployment if not appropriately managed. The role of governance remains an on-topic aspect of renewable energy which provides for a variety of dissertation examinations. Some examples of dissertation topics which examine renewable energy and governance are:
- Is the urgency of energy sector reform reflected in government policies or is there a need for new economic incentives to facilitate the transition to a renewables-based energy sector?
- How do disruptive events impact the transition to renewable energy generation?
- Will renewable energy generation enable new forms of alternative governance structures?
- Are governments effectively engaging citizens in the process of renewable energy generation and energy conservation?
- Do grassroots innovations positively contribute to the renewable energy transition and what influence does government policy have on the success or failure of grassroots renewable energy systems?
Renewable Energy and Energy Security
Increasing the capacity of renewable energy provision within a nation has the potential to contribute significantly towards enhancing energy security through the development of national energy provision which does not rely on foreign energy imports. Renewables-based energy sectors have complex interactions with energy security due to the variation in energy generation potential which is observed for many renewables. Reconciling renewable energy generation with energy security is a highly important component of future energy sectors, if renewables-based energy sectors cannot provide energy security then they will not be successful. There are multiple perspectives which can be taken in dissertations investigating this aspect of renewable energy, ranging from the development of diverse renewable resources, through to energy storage and distribution. Here are a few topic suggestions which investigate this aspect of renewable energy:
- Can we store enough: The future of batteries and energy storage.
- Can renewable energy resources present a viable future: Are renewables sufficient?
- Securing the future: Are Renewables the solution?
- The justice of renewable energy in developing countries; All for one and one for all.
- Energy storage: breaking the barriers to the future of energy solutions.
- Batteries: Which is the most desirable option?
- The future of energy supply, can we meet demand?
Emerging Renewable Energy Technologies
The status of development of renewable energy technologies differs between renewable resources. Some, such as solar PV and wind turbines are well-established and current research focuses on the refinement and improvement of these technologies and their associated infrastructure. However, the energy demands of society are diverse and there is a need to ensure that renewable energy generation can meet this diversity of needs. The replacement of traditional fossil fuels poses a greater challenge in some areas compared to others, for example, the replacement of aviation fuel with a renewable and low-carbon alternative. Dissertation topics examining emerging renewable energy technologies present an interesting option which looks to the future of renewable energy and identifies gaps in our current knowledge pool. Some examples of dissertation topics based on emerging renewable energy technologies are given below:
- How ‘green’ is green hydrogen? Examining the potential for green hydrogen utilisation in a sustainable society.
- Guilt free jet setting: Can biofuels make aviation fuels carbon neutral and sustainable?
- Reconciling biofuels and food security can we achieve both?
- Why is Geothermal renewable energy underutilised?
- Are all biofuels the same: Quantifying the environmental impact of biofuel production.
Renewable Energy in Developing Countries
The case of developing countries is highly relevant to the subject of renewable energy systems. This is due to the potential for developing countries to avoid the negative impacts of increasing energy demand with economic development if renewable energy resources are selected rather than traditional fossil fuels. This way the mistakes of developed nations and the resulting environmental degradation could potential be avoided. However, there comes into play issues regarding justice and equity, whereby it can be argued that developing countries should be afforded the same development opportunities as already developed countries and that to impose conditions on the energy sector development would be unjust. Dissertation topics in this area can be varied and the following titles are just some examples of areas you could potential explore:
- How will an energy transition to a renewables-based energy sector impact energy poverty in developing countries?
- Are decentralised, small-scale renewable energy generation systems the answer to supporting the development of rural communities?
- What are the barriers to renewable energy based economic development pathways for developing countries?
- Empowering rural communities: Renewable energy for the future.
- Can renewable-based energy transitions be just?
- Economic development and renewable futures can the two be reconciled?
Renewable Energy within the Circular Economy
The development of a sustainable future will be influenced by our approach to the use and consumption of resources. The nature of renewable energy is such that it will play a vital role in reducing the consumption of natural resources and limiting environmental degradation. The circular economy is being increasingly touted as the way forward for resource use and renewable energy resources are likely to be an integral aspect of the circular economy. However, the role of renewable energy within the circular economy is one which needs to be explored and developed, yes, the use of renewable energy has a lesser environmental impact that fossil fuels, but this does not mean that renewable energy does not have a degradative environmental impact. The sustainability of renewable energy, resource consumption and their role within the circular economy is an important area of research which is likely to receive considerable attention in the coming years and thus is a highly on-trend topic for a dissertation. Some example of dissertation titles which would fall within this area are:
- Can the sustainability of renewable energy systems be increased through the development of end-of-life component recycling?
- The place of renewable energy resources within the circular economy: Will it be possible to produce energy without consuming natural resources?
- Which renewable resource presents the most sustainable option: A life-cycle approach to calculating the environmental impact of renewable energy.
- Does the use of limited or rare natural resources in renewable energy systems mean that there is a finite lifespan of renewable energy systems?
- Powering the circular economy, what role will renewable energy systems play?
- The future of solar energy: Will it be possible to reduce resource consumption in solar energy systems?
- Do we perceive renewable energy systems as ‘greener’ than they are: A case study of the environmental impact of solar photovoltaic panel production.