ENP-23806 Sustainability Transitions: Concepts, Issues and Indicators


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper3
Group work1
Excursion (one day)5
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)M van der Knaap
dr. MF Greene
dr. ir. BJM van Vliet
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. A ter Heijne
dr.ir. JE Dykstra
H Zwarts
Examiner(s)dr. MF Greene
dr. ir. A ter Heijne
dr. S Kloppenburg

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

General understanding of environmental problems and sustainability, achieved in introductory courses like ENP-11303 Sustainable Solutions to Environmental Problems and ESA-10309 Environmental Sciences and Society.


Knowledge of and capability to work with sustainability concepts, indicators and issues belong to the core competences to be obtained in the environmental sciences. Sustainability is a concept that can be linked to many domains in society. This course is tailored towards two of the major domains: water and energy systems. Energy and water systems are crucial for human subsistence and of major environmental relevance. This course deals with the major transformations (transitions) that are needed within water and energy systems to reach sustainability. The course entails concepts of sustainability and transitions, applied to water and energy production, supply, distribution and consumption. It presents indicators for the assessment of long-term strategies towards sustainable water and energy systems and shows and discusses historical and present issues in energy and water technology and management in the Netherlands.
In this course the concept transition is used as a whole of transformation processes in which sectors in society change in a fundamental way over one generation (25 years) or more. Apart from discussing future transitions in water and energy, special attention will be given to the major changes water and energy systems have undergone in the past.
The course includes theoretical literature and lectures on sustainability and transition (management), indicators for sustainability assessment, and thematic (guest) lectures from Environmental History, Environmental Technology and Environmental Policy lecturers on the past, present and future of water and energy systems.
Apart from preparing and attending lectures, students will write individual essays guided by lecturers and peer students during small group sessions, and participate in an excursion to innovative water and/or energy projects in the Netherlands.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- recall the different meanings and dilemmas of concepts of sustainability in policy and academic circles;
- explain the temporary dynamics of industrialized societies, particularly concerning the past and future transitions in water and energy sectors in the Netherlands;
- evaluate existing and formulate their own long-term strategies towards ‘sustainability’ in water and energy-systems;
- apply sustainability indicators to assessing long term, social and technical transformations in water and energy sectors;
- demonstrate scientific writing skills by writing an individual paper on a chosen subject covered in the course.


The subject matter is elaborated and explained in literature, lectures and a field trip. Students write an individual essay on a chosen subject in connection with the lecture programme, and review the outlines and draft papers of other students.


- written exam with 5 open questions (50%);
- individual paper (50%).
Each component needs a minimum mark of 5.5 to pass.


See course guide.

Compulsory for: BESEnvironmental SciencesBSc2MO
Restricted Optional for: WUCLCBSc Minor Climate Change: Mitigation and Adaptation2MO
WUUEMBSc Minor Urban Environmental Management2MO