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MSc in Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance at Smurfit Business School

Advancing the understanding of finance theory and the application of sustainability factors to financial markets

Aimed at graduates who are keen to pursue a career in the growing number of organisations in the sustainable business and finance industries, the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School MSc in Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance advances students’ understanding of finance theory and the application of sustainability factors to financial markets.

The course also features a strong low-carbon energy component and aims to equip students with creative and analytical approaches to problem-solving in the sustainable finance context.

The greening of financial markets is accelerating at a rapid pace, notes academic director Tiffany Thng. “The world’s first green bond was issued by the World Bank back in 2008,” she adds. “Investments in green and sustainable bonds has been growing ever since.”

According to the most recent statistics from the World Bank, investments in bonds supporting environmental and social projects has grown to almost $4 trillion (€3.6 trillion). But even that immense figure is dwarfed by the level of investment required to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 which has been put at between $5 and $7 trillion annually across both the public and private sectors.


“There is growing interest in integrating sustainability into business practice and investments,” says Thng. “The Paris Agreement goals are among the factors driving this. This is creating a huge amount of career opportunities for people with knowledge and qualifications in the area.”

Indeed, 100 per cent of programme graduates are employed within six months across a range of sectors with 80 per cent going to work in the renewable energy industry. Such is the demand from industry that the Smurfit School reports more employers expressing an interest in the programme than there are students completing the course.

“Potential employers include Irish-based renewable energy companies,” Thng points out. “Most of our graduates go to them as project finance analysts or in business development roles or in energy trading. A number of students have gone to big four professional services firms as interns. Some graduates go into ESG asset management and stockbroking firms are very interested in our graduates. That led to the establishment of the Goodbody and UCD Smurfit MSc Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance scholarships for two students.”

The course curriculum encompasses a set of finance modules covering the major theoretical aspects of renewable energy and environmental finance, along with modules focusing on the tools and techniques for evaluating a comprehensive range of global, regional and firm-level environmental and financial issues.

“The autumn trimester is very heavy on finance and includes modules aimed at helping students understand basic finance theories,” she says. “Modules include quantitative methods for finance, financial econometrics, capital markets and instruments, and applied derivative securities.”

The spring term involves four modules — sustainable finance; renewable energy finance; energy economics and policy; and portfolio and risk management.

“In renewable energy finance we look at how to assess the value of an asset like a solar farm or a wind farm,” Thng explains. “It’s not as straightforward as valuing a more traditional asset. You have to talk to different stakeholders and there are different risks and more complexity involved. In the sustainable finance module, we teach students about ESG factors, impact investing, reporting standards, and what companies are doing in the space. We also take in the EU Taxonomy and so on.

“The energy economics looks at the economics of renewable energy and how the dynamics of supply and demand impact pricing.

“The portfolio management module is very applicable for students who want to work for asset management firms in the ESG space.”

For the summer trimester, students choose one of three options each of which involves a module on ethics in financial services. They can choose to do a green data science module along with two other finance modules or with a summer internship. The third option is to do a research dissertation.

The green data science module provides students with a comprehensive understanding of data science concepts and their applications to sustainable finance and business. It also introduces students to the data value chains underpinning sustainable finance and business decision-making, the statistical techniques for modelling progress towards the SDGs, and to data-driven approaches to identifying greenwashing in environmental reporting.

“This innovative programme is responding to real-world issues,” says Thng. “Our students come from a variety of business for non-business backgrounds and disciplines including science, engineering, humanities, technology, pharmaceuticals, health, food and drinks, not-for-profit and more. Applications are open now for graduates who wish to enhance their leadership and business skills and pursue careers in this critically important area.”