Before Getting Started…

Taking this course – how it’s delivered:

Although you can dip in and out of the chapters and lessons of this course as you wish, it is recommended that you work through them in the order indicated. You can go back and repeat or revisit any lessons later.

Even though parts of the course may be familiar to you, it’s best not to skip them. After all, it doesn’t do any harm to revise them (and perhaps see them in a different light as you do so).

Most lessons consist of either a mix of short text explanation with embedded video presentations (typically between 10 and 20 minutes in length), or of longer illustrative articles. They can be viewed online on whichever device is most convenient for you at the time. On any device, you’ll probably find it easiest to view videos by making them “full screen” (a click option to the bottom right of the video window).

Some parts of the course illustrate the various learning points numerically – and provide tools and encouragement for you to do this yourself, thus applying and solidifying what you learn. There’s no need to be a mathematical expert though!

Using numbers means that you’ll be better positioned to analyse the business of power in future. So any time you spend playing with them, and familiarising yourself and manipulating various conversions and metrics will prove to be time well spent. To help, there are a number of web-based calculators included in lessons along the way. For these calculators, you’ll find it much easier to work on a reasonably-sized screen (i.e. not a mobile phone, but a tablet or laptop).

In each case where calculators are used, there are a number of self-test quizzes, with questions designed to introduce the calculators and use them to illustrate key learning points and provoke some thought. There is no requirement to “pass” the various quizzes in order to complete the course – they are simply there to give you a chance to play with the numbers and to encourage you to think further about their implications. Indeed you are strongly encouraged to “play with the numbers” beyond just the self-test quizzes and worked examples provided here.


This course is intended to be self-contained and self-taught: one that you can complete yourself, at your own pace, to your own schedule. As a free course, please note that it doesn’t include any guarantee of trainer support for Q&A

That said, I’m always interested to hear from and help people. So if you do need to get in touch, feel free to email, I’ll do my best to respond as quickly as I can.

A summary of the course curriculum, in its recommended order:

The course begins by making sure that you have a firm foundation in manipulating these key quantities: energy, power and time.

This may seem like very basic way to start – but it’s strongly recommended that you don’t skip it! The fact is that terms like “power” and “energy” are widely misused and often only vaguely understood. Being absolutely clear on the differences and connections between them, including associated concepts such as “capacity” and “capacity factor“, is essential and fundamental to working with the commercial and economic aspects of the industry. The approach of this course is not to go into the physics, but to explain why the differences and connections matter from a business perspective.

With the fundamentals established, we move on to explore how the business of electricity generation – like any other – is ultimately about those two basic economic quantities: supply and demand.

So next we focus on electricity supply, by comparing and contrasting the key competitive attributes of the various sources of power generation available (sustainability, fuel, dispatchability, emissions and so on). Then we follow that by looking at electricity demand – in particular how it varies, what the requirements are for “keeping the lights on” and hence how electricity mixes which balance demand with supply need to look. Peak demand gets special attention, given its economic importance, but we also discuss whether concepts like baseload matter too..

Next we investigate “efficiency” and its differing definitions, with a particular focus on the implications for primary energy and fuel usage. That in turn leads nicely into land use – in particular how the “energy density” of different sources of supply can lead to practical challenges in individual power project development.

Last but not least, of course, the primary challenge of a power project is to make money. So next up is a summary of the economic variables that are in play here and which determine revenues and costs. These are related back to the various issues we’ve previously discussed – from capacity factor and fuel to efficiency and emissions. Since “levelised cost” is one of the most-often quoted metrics for comparing the economics of different sources of power generation, we define and critique that too.