School of Social and Political Science

Energy Policy & Sustainability


Energy systems are undergoing fundamental transformations as societies seek to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

In Energy Policy & Sustainability, we will take a distinctive Science, Technology & Innovation Studies approach to understand how these transformations might take place. First, we will explore distinct aspects of our energy system, including how energy is supplied, the energy we use in homes, and our use of energy for transport.

New technologies, or improvements to existing technologies are often suggested as ways to shift away from our reliance on fossil fuels; however, these technologies can simultaneously shape, and be shaped by, the societies they form a part of. Consequently, it is important to consider how these technologies take their place in society and whether they will achieve the transformations we hope for. Throughout the course, we will learn a variety of analytical tools that can be used to critically evaluate some key energy technologies and policy debates. Towards the end of the course, these concepts will be considered in relation to detailed case studies including: making and using energy scenarios, energy market transformations and how we think about our energy security.

Key Concepts Include:

  • Social Construction of Technology
  • Multi-Level Perspective
  • Large Technical Systems
  • Whole Systems Analysis

Themes include:

  • Making energy policy
  • The energy trilemma
  • How novel supply-side technologies take shape
  • New transport options and existing regimes
  • Smart technologies and domestic energy use
  • The state and market in liberalised energy systems

Energy Policy and Sustainability provides students with an understanding of key social and technical issues influencing energy policies in the context of the global transition toward sustainable and lower carbon energy systems. Taking a distinctive interdisciplinary ‘Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies’ (STIS) approach, the course will equip students with a range of theoretical and analytical frameworks to understand energy systems and related policies in the UK, Europe and globally.

Relevant concepts and frameworks from the STIS field will be introduced in order to reveal the complex social and technical relationships involved in energy systems. Students will be encouraged to look beyond superficial, single discipline or deterministic accounts of energy system change, and address the range of interacting social, economic and technical forces shaping sustainable energy transition pathways.

This is a level 10 course with 20 credits.

There will be 1 lecture and 1 tutorial per week in Semester 2.