School of Social and Political Science

MSc Energy, Society and Sustainability (Via School of GeoSciences)

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The application deadline for this programme is 30 June 2022.

The world is facing an ‘energy trilemma’. How do we achieve energy security, energy justice and environmental sustainability?

Often invisible and intangible, energy drives the availability and affordability of all material resources. It is thus key to human development and the heart of any sustainability debate. With the challenges of global climate change, the world is seeking a fast but fair transition to a low carbon society.

The MSc in Energy, Society and Sustainability equips you with an understanding of low carbon technologies, policies and markets with a focus on the analysis of the social, societal, and environmental dimensions of energy transitions.

The programme attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds, creating unique opportunities for interdisciplinary peer-to-peer learning.

Students with a natural science background can seek to understand more about the social factors associated with a transition to a lower carbon economy, whilst social science students can expand their skills and knowledge for a career in low carbon energy.


Through the programme, you can explore the scope and risks, costs and benefits of energy transitions in the face of wider societal processes such as demographics, economic trends and shifting political landscapes.

You will examine how citizens are involved in, and are affected by changes in energy systems. You will be able to relate supply-side issues to geo-politics and political economy. Energy demand will be studied in relation to the broader challenges of sustainable consumption, inequalities in access to basic energy services and the spatio-temporal distribution of social and environmental impacts of the energy supply chain.

You will also gain the analytical skills to explore the potential of ‘smart’ information and communications technology (ICT) to affect consumption and inform sustainable living.

Scotland is a world leader in renewable electricity generation, but is also economically dependent on declining North Sea oil and gas, with high levels of energy poverty.

Programme aims

The programme aims for students to develop transdisciplinary skills in the assessment of the transition potential of energy systems towards greater sustainability, focussing especially on the human dimension of technological change and working and experimenting with energy users to co-produce knowledge about pathways to change.

Upon successful completion of the programme, students will have gained understanding of:

  • energy systems and the energy trilemma
  • social theories that underpin human attitudes and behaviour in relation to energy use
  • the non-technical and more-than-technical aspects of energy transitions
  • how energy-related decisions are linked to other societal challenges and socio-technical developments
  • energy literacy

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses
  • dissertation

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking. Courses can be delivered through a mix of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • practicals
  • short field trips
  • longer field courses

Although we endeavour to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from, these can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice. Places on optional courses can be restricted on the basis of numbers, room capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.

Compulsory and optional courses

MSc | 1 year full-time | Programme structure 2020/21

Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

Part-time study

As we are committed to helping people into education whilst continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.

MSc | 2 years part-time | Programme structure 2020/21


We are committed to offering a high-quality education to all our students. Please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery due to Covid-19.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

Career opportunities

Demand has never been higher for sound evidence on behavioural change, public engagement with energy issues and public support for community and commercial investments in low-carbon energy generation.

The MSc will enable you to translate complex social and technical issues into effective arguments, policies and innovative business opportunities.

We have links with government departments, energy-relevant NGOs, and key industry players who want to make use of the skills gained from the MSc, from community energy organisations to start-up renewable energy companies.

We are committed to helping you meet prospective employers and network with those active in the field. We also organise careers events and encourage dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations.

Our graduates

Our graduates have been very successful in securing employment in the energy sector around the world, from international energy consultancies, national and regional government institutions to third sector organisations, including NGOs and institutes of higher education.

Careers Service

Our Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, offering a range of tailored careers and personal development guidance and support.

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at university and after graduation.

Careers Service

How to apply

Tuition fees

Award Title Duration Study mode  
MSc   1 Year Full-time Tuition fees
MSc   2 Years Part-time Tuition fees
Additional information

Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI)

This MSc programme is strongly associated with the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) which brings together experts in law, business, technology and policy making to help develop a low-carbon society.

You will benefit from our close access to a high number of insightful case studies, which examine links between global and local issues, explore international best practices and identify pathways to more sustainable energy management.