The University of Stavanger is leading an EU-funded project to develop a digital learning tool that allows students to engage in simulated international negotiations related to renewable energy and sustainability.
The Geopolitics of Renewables Simulation
In cooperation with Ghent University, Delft University of Technology, Technische Universität München, the University of Stavanger obtained a ca. 260,000 EUR financial grant from the Erasmus+ programme for developing a new learning tool. In response to the increased need for digital solutions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this project aims at developing a digital learning environment. This web-based tool will simulate the ‘geopolitics of renewables’, thereby providing university students worldwide with an opportunity to experience the international challenges and opportunities involved with the transition to renewable energy. Students will be required to choose different roles in a number of fictional countries, and negotiate various courses of action with their peers at other universities. The aim of this simulation is to come to an international agreement that will help avoid climate change.
The project started in March, this year, and will last two years. A dedicated team of high-level researchers, including Miranda Schreurs (TU Munich), Thijs van de Graaf (Ghent University), and Daniel Scholten (TU Delft) is currently developing the ‘rules of the game’, that is the internal workings of this simulation. During one of the first project workshops, helpful insights into existing simulations were provided by Rex Brynan from McGill University, and Devin Ellis from University of Maryland, Director of the ICONS project. Development of the digital tool at TU Delft’s ‘Gamelab’ will start in September. The development process of the Geopolitics of Renewables Simulation includes active student participation and is part of a micro-module of the ECIU University.
Background: the geopolitics of renewable energy
Around the year 2015, a handful of scholars started to explore the impact of renewables on interstate energy relations. Publications by Stratfor and The Economist have given the topic of the ‘geopolitics of renewables’ international recognition. A 2019 report by the International Renewables Energy Agency was another watershed moment. Since then, studies abound. Developing and using this digital learning platform (the ‘Geopolitics of Renewables Simulation’) represents the central goal of the project. Despite temporary interruptions of in-class learning activities due to COVID-19 or similar crises, this software will allow students to engage in simulated, real-time negotiations of international energy and climate policy with peers at other universities.
A learning environment for students
Renewable energy is often seen as the solution to stop further climate changes. However, planning and implementing the necessary common measures is still a difficult process. Especially on an international level, the energy transition faces a complex set of opportunities and challenges. The learning platform aims to give students a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with the transition to renewable energy. International relations in the field of energy have existed for a long time already. However, in the field of renewable energy this is new and international relations will play a bigger role in the global transition in the future. Hence, if climate protection and sustainability are to be achieved, the international consequences of new energy technology must be understood.
UiS’s role in the project, with Thomas Michael Sattich (Associated professor at the UIS) as the project leader, is somewhat of a double role, as both participant and to oversee and make sure everything is done correctly. Another part of the cooperation is Diku, the Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education, which will work as an intermediary between UiS and the EU. By now, the EU-funded project has taken the first steps towards developing a digital tool for learning about the energy transition. Lessons learned so far: never forget the learning outcomes, and keep in mind that “it is easy for students to learn the wrong lesson”.