Spring 2021 - REM 658 G100

Energy and Materials Systems Modeling (5)

Class Number: 5933

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo, We 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    Permission of instructor.



Theory, background, and practical experience in the use of a range of techniques for policy modelling of energy and materials flows in society with the aim of demonstrating how more environmentally and socially sustainable trajectories can be achieved. Techniques include: simulation modelling, optimization modelling, econometric and other forms of parameter estimation, input-output modelling, game playing models, and integrated systems models.


“All models are wrong. Some are more useful” – G. Box

This course is open to graduate students and professionals who seek a better understanding of research methods and models relating to social and technical sustainability.

Class format: Synchronous.


By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Identify and compare the major types of research methods and models being used to inform sustainability-oriented policy within social and technical systems.
  2. Explain the strengths and weaknesses of these methods and models, and identify their relative usefulness for different policy objectives or research questions.
  3. Evaluate and critique studies that utilize these methods (e.g. reports and peer-reviewed articles).
  4. Apply these models and methods to real-world problems in environment and sustainability, and policy.
  5. Effectively communicate research results (memos, papers, presentations), including text and visual aids (tables and figures). 6. Assess and effectively communicate uncertainty in results.


  • Participation 10%
  • Assignments 40%
  • Mid-term exam 15%
  • Research methods project: In-class presentation (10%) & Term Paper (25%) 35%


The course involves a mix of lectures, seminars and labs.  In seminars, students are expected to play an active role in understanding and discussing the various research methods and models and their appropriateness for different policy and research objectives.  Students will gain hands-on experience by applying research methods and models to simplified problems in labs and assignments. The course sections correspond to the main methods topics that will be covered, although there is room for some alteration depending on the preferences and expertise of students in a particular year.


Because the course is taught from a basic level, a strong quantitative background is not required to do well in this course.  There are no formal course prerequisites. It is assumed that students will start the class with the following basic skills:

  • Basic level of familiarity with Excel (e.g., setting up data, writing a formula).
  • Can write using technical language (in the style of research reports or peer-reviewed articles).
  • Can find, review, summarize and properly cite existing literature.
  • Can create tables and figures to effectively convey information.
  • Basic training in statistics (e.g. means, standard deviations, t-tests).


Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).