Leading the Renewables Revolution

River in GermanyCFAN 3520

Program Dates:
January 2-14, 2018

Application Deadline:
October 1, 2017

Course Dates:

Saturdays, November 2, November 18, and December 2

Apply Here

Students will explore Germany, the inventor of the vision of cities and regions powered 100% by renewable energy. Germany’s growing renewable energy system emerged through collaboration across political, business and nonprofit sectors and in dialogue with science. Meet leaders from Germany and Minnesota who are involved in solving the social, technical, and political challenges of transforming industrial economies. For more information about the Climate-Smart Municipalities Project that connects Minnesota and Germany, click here.

Germany and the Scandinavian countries lead the world in transforming to sustainable energy systems. In this study abroad course, students have the opportunity to get an in-depth look at the political, social and technological drivers behind renewable energy development. Students will meet some of Germany's top politicians, government officials, researchers, and educators, and learn how they advocate for and manage change.

Students arrive in Dusseldorf, a beautiful large city along the Rhine River, known for its spectacular design, and will continue to the bustling, bicycling haven of Munster. Next, students will visit the model climate-smart small city of Saerback. These three communities are located in North Rhine-Westphalia, approximately 55 kilometers from the Netherlands border. Students will learn how these cities excel in advancing the renewable energy revolution with their integrative systems approach. The revolution involves much more than only renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and biomass. Students will consider the multitude of factors that have led to Germany's successful sustainable energy transition. As the Mayor of Saerbeck puts it: "Energy transition begins in our heads; our real challenge is not about technology." 


SUST 3480 - 3.0 credits

This is an embedded course with on-campus class time during fall semester prior to departure. Students must both register for this course, and complete the study abroad application. 

Students will learn about the broad context and specific approaches to the renewables revolutions in MN and German, learn about culture, and prepare for your study abroad experience. 

Course Dates: Saturday, November 2, November 18, and December 2

All UMTC classes will be held at the Institute on the Environment, room LES-R370

 *For students participating from Morris, Crookston, or Duluth, we will strive to provide a meeting location on your campus. Please make every effort to attend class meeting #3 on the UMTC St. Paul campus. If this is not possible, please contact your program leaders.

*For more detailed information, see the program syllabus. (Coming soon!)

Who Will Benefit:

Students majoring and/or interested in sustainability and renewable energy.

For more information, visit

Program Cost: $4,950

The program fee includes orientation, airfare, international health insurance, lodging, excursions, and most meals. The program fee will be available soon. In the event that you are not a full time student, or are a non-University of Minnesota student, you will also be charged for tuition. The cost of this program will be considered as part of your fall semester cost of attendance for financial aid calculations. You are eligible to apply for Winter Break scholarships and grants for this program.

Class Overview

Class #1: Saturday, Nov. 4, 8:30-4:30
Twin Cities campus location: Institute on the Environment, room LES-R370
Minnesota’s Energy Transition—politics, economics, regulatory framework, best practice examples
A day with seminar sessions, a site visit, and a group reporting project.
Expert speakers comprising of faculty, policy makers, and industry leaders. (tbc)
Class #2: Saturday, Nov. 18, 8:30-4:30
Twin Cities campus location: Institute on the Environment, room LES-R370
Germany’s Energy Transition—History, Context, Players
A day with seminar sessions, a cultural awareness workshop, and travel logistics info
Topics and expert speakers (tbc)
Class #3: Saturday, Dec. 2, 8:30-4:30
Twin Cities campus location: Institute on the Environment, room LES-R370

Please contact the program leaders Beth Mercer-Taylor or Sabine Engel if you have questions or concerns about the workshops.

Program Leaders: 

Beth Mercer-Taylor is the sustainability education coordinator at the University of Minnesota, where she administers the Sustainability Studies Minor. Beth has helped to implement the GreenStep Cities program in Minnesota and many campus sustainability programs.

Sabine Engel is a program director in the Institute on the Environment, and is a lead in the climate-smart exchange with Germany. Sabine has led 12 delegations to germany of MN elected officials, business and community leaders and is connected to a large network of influential German partners.

Shane Stennes is the Director of Sustainability at the University of Minnesota and is also responsible for campus sustainability reporting, the campus Climate Action Plan ( and Second Nature Carbon commitment, engaging the campus community in sustainability initiatives, and program management.