Leading the Renewables Revolution

River in GermanySUST3480

January 2-14, 2018

Application Deadline:
October 1, 2017

Apply Here

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. Prior to departure, two one-day Saturday workshops will connect students to the underlying concepts of renewable energy. 

Students land in Dusseldorf, a big city known for design and a beautiful setting along the Rhine, travel to the bustling, bicycling haven of Munster, and visit the model climate-smart small city of Saerback, all in North Rhine-Westphalia, about 55 kilometers from the Netherlands border. These communities excel in advancing the renewable energy revolution with their integrative systems approach. Learn how to solve the puzzle by thinking broadly. The revolution involves much more than only renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and biomass. 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

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

This program involves on-campus class meetings prior to departure.

Who Will Benefit:

Students majoring in any field related to sustainability or renewable energy will benefit, particularly those in Sustainable Systems Management, Environmental Policy, Science and Management (ESPM), Applied Economics and Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, as well as those minoring in Sustainability Studies or pursuing independent majors that include study of sustainability or renewable energy.

Students pursuing any major, but who have either academic, work or co-curricular experience with renewable energy or sustainability, are also welcome to apply.

For more information, visit

Program Cost:


On-Campus Course Details

This is an embedded program which includes required on-campus class time during fall semester on the following dates. You will learn about the broad context and specific approaches to the renewables revolutions in MN and Germany, and get travel and cultural information. To minimize the need for student travel between campuses, we will have the orientation meetings be concurrent on the TC and branch campuses and be connected through IT.

Class Dates

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

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.

Sabine Engel is program director of international energy policy and cooperation at the Institute on the Environment; she's also principal investigator on several large energy-policy grants that are co-funded by the German government. She has led more than a dozen delegations of MN legislators, government officers, and representatives from the private and nonprofit sectors to Germany to learn firsthand about Germany's energy transition from its architects. One result of the sustained exchange between Minnesota and Germany is Minnesota's 2013 solar energy legislation. The January 2017 student group will be the first student delegation to have this unique opportunity.

Shane Stennes is the Director of Sustainability at the University of Minnesota. In this role, Shane works with staff, students, and faculty to advance campus sustainability, particularly as it relates to energy, food, construction, transportation, water, and waste management systems. Shane 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. Prior to becoming Director of Sustainability in 2015, Shane served in a variety of related roles including Chief Administrative Officer for the University's Facilities Management department, Sustainability Coordinator for University Services, and Human Resource Consultant for University Services. Shane has a BA in Political Science and International Relations from St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict, and a Master of Human Resources degree from the University of South Carolina. He is looking forward to engaging in hands-on learning with the students, co-instructors, and German colleagues to understand the interface between social, technical, and political aspects of the German energy transition.