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Summary Teaching Assignment
Academic Year 2020/2021
Type of Teaching Doctorate
Professor Colombo Emanuela
Cfu 5.00 Type of Course Mono-Disciplinary Course

Phd Programme From (included) To (excluded) Course

Detailed program and learning outcomes

Objectives and contents of the course

Over the last decades, the interest of the international community for the multiple interconnections among natural resource availability, their equitable distribution, and the impact on development and society has widely increased. The 2030 Agenda by the UN System and the 17 Sustainable Development Objectives highlights the world is increasingly interconnected and social challenges are getting more and more complex so that a global call to multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder actions is recognised. A consistent number of goals (6, 7, 14, 15) deals directly with natural resources (water, energy and food), which are a necessary precondition for human promotion and may represents an instrumental right to fight poverty and are, therefore, at the core of the Agenda 2030. From one side, it is clear that equitable access to and appropriate management of natural resources is also pivotal to the full achievement of a sustainable development paradigm. From the other, global change is challenging planning and management of natural resources with increasing variability and extreme uncertainty, making the design of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable engineering solutions a non-trivial task. The course will provide a general overview of the various dimensions of Sustainable Development and will develop knowledge and skills for the advanced modelling, management, and planning of natural resources systems in a changing world. The focus will be on water, energy and food systems and their interlinks (the so called WEF Nexus). Students will learn (1) how to formulate WEF management and planning problems within the framework of Sustainable Development paradigm accounting for multiple sectors, and complexities arising from both the coupled nature of human and natural systems and ongoing global change; (2) how to use an ensemble of (open and transparent) modelling tools to comparatively evaluate integrated solutions and assess the economic and environmental implications of the associated policies within a WEF Nexus approach. This course responds to the global call towards a new role for Science within the Agenda 2030 where multidisciplinary and cross fertilization among disciplines are strongly needed for matching the complexities underlined by the 17 SDGs. 


Structure of the Course

Module 1: The paradigm of Sustainable Development. Trends in Development models from the Marshall Plan to the 2030 Agenda. Natural Resources and Human activity. Cause-effect relation in problem analysis.

Module 2. The Food Challenge. Planetary Boundaries for the agri-food ecosystem and SDG1. Food Security and Sustainable agriculture. Accounting for Water use in Agriculture

Module 3: The Water Challenge. Water trends, challenges, and SDG6. Water security. Planning and managing complex hydro-energy systems. Comprehensive Water Management across multiple spatiotemporal scales.

Module 4. The Energy Challenge. The Global Energy Challenge and SDG7: trends and forecast. Resource availability and technological roadmap to decarbonisaton. Life Cycle Energy Accounting. Consumption and production paradigm. Introduction to Energy Modelling and Accounting tools.

Module 5. Beyond the WEF Nexus. Open and interactive seminars on Climate Change and Cities, Design and Social Innovation to complement the need for integrated approach to resource management within Sustainable Development

Module 6. Hands on. Project work development by using different modelling tools to address realistic natural resources management problems. The project work will be related to one or more WEF case studies applied at global level using an ensemble of modelling tools defined according to the case study.


Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes may be aggregated into four areas of knowledge

  1. Students will learn the foundation and evolution of the main development models from the Marshal plan to the new paradigm of Sustainable Development. They will learn the principles of integrated resources management and planning for the WEF nexus and will understand the implication of resources on development.
  2. Students will learn how to use and apply mathematical models to inform policy making in the context of WEF nexus.
  3. Students will learn how to make choice and provide judgement within complex framework during the execution of the project work dedicated to policy analysis.
  4. Students will learn how to present their work given a certain time and audience.


Location of the course

The Course's venue is still under discussion and it will depend on the evolution of the COVID-19 emergency. 

The Bovisa Campus may be an option.


Preparatory Listening 

1. First two lectures on https://www.ted.com/playlists/67/the_quest_to_end_povert

2. From Polimi MOOC “The Strange Paradox of the World Energy Question”


On the you tube channel: Water Energy and Food Nexus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbzGc-PixUs

 3. Sustainable Food Security: Crop Production. Please have a listening to https://www.edx.org/course/sustainable-food-security-crop-wageningenx-sfscpx

4. From Polimi MOOC “The Strange Paradox of the World Energy Question” https://www.pok.polimi.it/courses/course-v1:Polimi+ASPenergy101+2016_M4/about

On the you tube channel

Energy and Human Activities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQV5P6KYj0g

Global Energy Stocks and flows (Part 1): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GHmC_xeuME

Global Energy Stocks and flows (Part 2): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3ol4EwSKQg

Energy as a leverage to development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxrCA9v9a8A

Energy, Economy and Policy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fCy3aOgZQ4

Energy and Geopolitics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbyfCPSG_zY 

Notes on methods of assessing

Organization of the course and exam details

Blended and flipped classes will complement ex-cathedra lectures for Module 1-2-3-4 which account for 3 ECTS of the course. Module 5, accounting for 2 ECTS is fully dedicated to project work and training on the job. Student will be introduced to a number of modelling tools and their integration applied to WEF policies will represent the core of the project work by testing the relevance of integrated approach in resource management. Students will be divided into group and the assignment will be a given WEF problem to be understood in term of the cause effect relationship leading to it. Students will have to propose a technological and policy scenario to improve the situations and check its effectiveness.



Teaching activities
Start date
End date

Schedule planning

Monday, 25/01/2021 -  1 ECTS

Module 1 The paradigm of Sustainable Development

Prof.  E. Colombo, Department of Energy (DENG)

8.30-9.30 Introductory session

Instructor and classmates’ presentation. The rules for the week

9.30-11.00 Trends in Development Models. How to understand the cause effect relationship

A focus on Development: From the Marshall Plan to the Agenda 2030 and the 17 SDGs. How to identify problem and set objectives? How to define a causal link among problems.


Module 2 The FOOD challenge

Prof. M. C. Rulli Department of civil and environmental engineering (DICA)

11.00-15.00 Introduction to SDG 2

Food security, nutrition and sustainable Agriculture

15.00-17.00: The sustainable global water and food security challenges -

Understanding complex relationship between water and food

Tuesday, 26/01/2021 - 1 ECTS


Module 3 The WATER challenge

Prof. A. Castelletti, Department of Electronics, Information, and Bioengineering (DEIB)

9.00-10.00 Introduction to SDG 6

Global water challenges: water management in a changing world

10.00-12.00 Planning and managing complex hydro-energy systems

Understanding and modelling complex relationships between energy and water at different spatiotemporal scales


Module 4 The ENERGY Challenge

Prof. Emanuela Colombo, Department of Energy (DENG)

13.00-15.00 Energy and Human Activities

A focus on the use of resources in human activity. The current turning point between resource uses and environmental concern. Some example from the energy field. Development, Technology and Innovation.

15.00-17.00 Global Energy Challenge and SDG 7

Trends and Forecast of the Global energy challenge. Discussion on SDG7

Wednesday 27/01/2020 - 1 ECTS

Prof.  M. Rocco , Department of Energy


MODULE 6 – PROJECT WORKS – assignment and introduction

9.00-11.00 Appropriate Accounting for Energy Management

Embodied energy and Life Cycle perspective. Accounting Methodology. Consumption and Production paradigm

11.00-13.00 Practical Exercise: hands on (single region)

The three-sector model for a simple economy: getting acquainted with impact analysis.

14.00-17.00 Introduction to Multi Regional Input Output Table (MIOT) and impact analysis

Introduction to Multiregional Input Output Table for national economy. Understanding sectorial dependences, demands and productions. Leontief Production and Environmental Impact Model

16.00-17.00 Introduction to the framework used for assignment

Thursday 28/01/2020 - 1 ECTS

Prof. M. Rocco, Prof. D. Chiarelli

9.00-10.00 Introduction to the framework used for assignment

10.00-17.00 Practical Exercise: hands on (multi region)

Deepening the knowledge with case study

Friday 29/01/2020 - 1 ECTS

Prof. M. Rocco, Prof. D. Chiarelli

9.00-12.00 Team work on the Assignment.


MODULE 5 – Beyond the WEF NEXUS

16.00-18.00 Exam and Closure


Software used
No software required

Didactic forms
Type of didactic form Teaching hours
computer laboratory
experimental laboratory
project laboratory

Information in English to support internationalization
Course offered in language English

Note Professor
schedaincarico v. 1.8.4 / 1.8.4
Area Servizi ICT