What would a sustainable energy system look like, and how will we get there?

Faculty: Science
Subject: Environmental Science
Year / Level: 4
Theme(s): Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation



What would a sustainable energy system look like, and how will we get there?

Energy undergirds almost every aspect of our lives today. Its production and use shapes how we live, work, learn, and play. It also shapes the planet. The climate crisis is just one example of how energy is deeply linked with the environment and society. Addressing energy challenges like climate change therefore requires us to understand not just the science and engineering of energy technologies, but broader human-natural-technological energy systems.

This course is focused on understanding energy systems (including their social and environmental dimensions); developing a toolbox of analytical and conceptual tools (from social and natural sciences) that can help us evaluate policy choices about energy systems; and using these tools to think critically about how these systems can be transformed to reach our collective sustainability goals. To reach these goals, we explore a series of contemporary and historical case studies of energy debates, from here in North America and elsewhere in the world.


By the end of this course, you will:

  1. Develop a deeper quantitative and qualitative understanding of the technical, social, and environmental dimensions of energy systems and their interactions, for specific energy issues
  2. Apply concepts and analytical approaches from natural and social sciences to better understand energy policy debates and controversies, from local to global scales
  3. Identify the strengths, limitations, and underlying assumptions of different analytical and conceptual approaches
  4. Evaluate strategies to transition to more (environmentally, socially, economically) sustainable energy systems
  5. Appreciate the role of both facts and values in the evaluation process
  6. Effectively communicate technical information about energy issues in written, visual, oral formats to a range of audiences
  7. Collaborate in interdisciplinary teams to conduct energy systems analysis


Check SSC to see if the course is currently offered and if you meet pre-requisites etc.

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Read a copy of the course syllabus to see reading lists, assignments, grading, and more.



Amanda Giang

"We enable learners to think critically about energy systems and to transform them to be more sustainable and just."