Preparing global online learners for the clean energy transition

After a career devoted to making the electric power system more efficient and resilient, Marija Ilic came to MIT in 2018 eager not just to extend her research in new directions, but to prepare a new generation for the challenges of the clean-energy transition.

To that end, Ilic, a senior research scientist in MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decisions Systems (LIDS) and a senior staff member at Lincoln Laboratory in the Energy Systems Group, designed an MITx course, delivered through edX, that captures her methods and vision: Principles of Modeling, Simulation, and Control for Electric Energy Systems.

The course starts with fundamental concepts in electric power systems operations and management, and it steadily adds layers of complexity, posing real-world problems along the way. Ilic explains how voltage travels from point to point across transmission lines and how grid managers modulate systems to ensure that enough, but not too much, electricity flows. “To deliver power from one location to the next one, operators must constantly make adjustments to ensure that the receiving end can handle the voltage transmitted, optimizing voltage to avoid overheating the wires,” she says.

By the end of the course, approximatelly 2000 enrolled students, were invited to pursue independent research projects. Some have modeled the impact of a new energy source on a local grid or for example investigated different options for reducing energy loss in transmission lines.