Introduction to Energy Policy and Sustainability

Module titleIntroduction to Energy Policy and Sustainability
Module codeGEOM248
Academic year2017/8
Module staff

Professor Catherine Mitchell (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Energy is used in all aspects of life, whether in industry; small and medium sized commercial enterprises; in domestic homes and in the public sector. It is used to heat houses and water; to power electric goods; to enable us to drive cars or to fly to distant destinations; to transport much of the food we eat; and to create the goods we sell and consume, including the clothes we wear. Each country will use energy in different ways because of its economy; its natural resources; its population; its culture, its geography and its buildings. Energy policy has to fulfil a number of goals: those related to the environment; those related to energy security; those related to economics and competitiveness; and finally those related to social concerns, including affordability. These goals can be met in different ways via different technological pathways (eg nuclear versus renewable energy plus energy efficiency) and by different operational methods (ie stupid and inflexible versus smart and flexible). The choices made by decision-makers will depend on the different weighting they give to the various goals. This module explores potential energy policies and governance systems to meet these goals, and assesses their implications for different sectors and stakeholders in the energy industry and the wider society.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • provide an overview of the key issues within energy policy, including how to make the transition from the current energy system to a sustainable one, while at the same time ensuring energy security and affordability;
  • provide an understanding of the goals of energy policy (sustainability, security, affordability) and how to deliver them; make decisions about their trade-offs (or not);
  • provide an understanding of what technologies are available for a low carbon energy system (electricity, heat and transport fuels)
  • explain the changing means of operation and infrastructural needs of a sustainable and secure energy system, as well as the new ideas about energy provision and use, business models, actors and institutions;
  • introduce the key issues in overcoming inertia and the move carbon energy systems;
  • provide an understanding of the global dimensions of energy policy;
  • provide an overview of the key issues relating to energy demand.
  • Explaining the importance of people and customers

Attendance at weekly lectures and seminars will introduce you to relevant academic and professional skills which can be utilised and drawn on in energy-related professions and occupations. These skills will include: the development of problem solving skills such as linking theory to practice and developing your own ideas with confidence; being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems in regard to energy issues; setting clearly defined goals and clear objectives within the structure of the course; the development of time management skills; working effectively individually and within a group setting; presenting ideas and responding positively and effectively to questions. You will get an introduction to some of the key issues which face decision makers, researchers and other stakeholders who work in the energy industry.

The module is research-led and introduces you to real world and relevant issues around energy, the environment, and helps you to understand the practicalities of a low carbon transition.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe and evaluate the key issues and questions (whether technical, social, institutional, economic) that energy policy and energy policy initiatives have to deal with
  • 2. Outline the different choices which have to be made to create a low carbon energy economy, and their impacts on different stakeholders and institutions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Describe in detail and analyse the essential theories about energy policy practice and energy system transformation
  • 4. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 5. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within energy policy
  • 6. Describe and evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of energy policy with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 8. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 9. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Introductory lecture (the goals of energy policy; the constituents of an energy system and how they fit together; where energy is used; what technologies are available for electricity, heat and transport fuels)
  • The international context
  • ‘lemmas – ‘Tri’, ‘Quad’ or  nonsense? (is it possible to make trade-offs between goals)
  • The Basics of energy economics
  • People and energy
  • Heat and buildings
  • Transformation to a ‘smart and flexible’ energy system Part 1
  • Transformation to a ‘smart and flexible’ energy system Part 2
  • Agents for change – energy framework transformation
  • The politics of energy policy making
  • Wrap-up

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Lectures/workshops (10 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Seminars (10 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study130Additional research, reading and preparation for lectures, seminars and module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures/debatesOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation2510 minutes (no more than 10 slides)AllWritten
A lobbying plan for an energy system stakeholder 25No more than 3 pages, all dimensions and time lines2, 7-8Written
Opinion piece for broadsheet of choice 251000 words7-8Written
Writing a Briefing Paper for Minister 25No more than 2 pages1, 3-6Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PresentationPresentation1, 7-9August Ref/Def
A lobbying plan for an energy system stakeholder A lobbying plan for an energy system stakeholder 2, 7-8August Ref/Def
Opinion piece for broadsheet of choice Opinion piece for broadsheet of choice 7-8August Ref/Def
Writing a Briefing Paper for Minister Writing a Briefing Paper for Minister 1, 3-6August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to re-submit coursework as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

For introduction, ‘lemmas, trade-offs; institutions, wrap-up etc:

  • House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee Reports
  • Helm D. (2004) Energy, the State and the Market: British Energy Policy since 1979. Oxford University Press
  • Scrase I. et al (2009) Energy for the Future: A New Agenda. Palgrave, Macmillan
  • HM Government (2011) The Carbon Plan,
  • IPCC, Fifth Assessment Reports,
  • Mitchell C. (2008) The Political Economy of Sustainable Energy. London, Palgrave

General context – the blogs etc on; and then specifically

For ‘smart and flexible’ energy systems: ECC: Low carbon network infrastructure 2016:

For politics of decision-making:

  • Hill, M.J. (2009) The Public Policy Process. Harlow: Longman
  • Weible, C.M., Heikkila, T., deLeon, P., Sabatier, P. a. (2012) Understanding and influencing the policy process. Policy Sciences. 45(1), 1–21; E3G (2014) Driving Change and Opportunity through Strategic Influencing. London. Available at: (pdf to be made available on the course site)
  • Magritte Group (2013) Press release: Heads of 12 Leading European Energy Companies Propose Concrete Measures to Rebuild Europe’s Energy Policy. Brussels: GDF Suez. (pdf to be made available on the course site)
  • Shell, Areva, CEZ, Enel, GDF Suez, Fortum, RWE, Statoil (2013) 2030: the case for single carbon target. Brussels. (pdf to be made available on the course site)

For Heat and Buildings:

  • Connor, P.M., Xie, L., Lowes, R., Britton, J., Richardson, T. (2015) The development of renewable heating policy in the United Kingdom. Renewable Energy. 75, 733–744
  • Dodds, P.E., McDowall, W. (2013) The future of the UK gas network. Energy Policy. 60, 305–316;
  • Eyre, N., Baruah, P. (2015) Uncertainties in future energy demand in UK residential heating. Energy Policy, 1–13; IEA (2014) Heating without global warming- Market developments and policy considerations for renewable heat,

For people and energy:

For economics:

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Energy, carbon, policy, sustainability, governance

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date