Course Descriptions

State-specific Information for Online Programs

Note: Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.

  • Core Courses

    425.601 - Principles and Applications of Energy Technology

    The course examines energy supply and consumption, and how these activities impact the environment, with a focus on understanding the potential technology, market structure and policy implications for climate change. Students will gain a solid understanding of the science, economics, environmental impact associated with various electricity generation technologies, including renewable energy, conventional generation (existing and future), carbon storage and sequestration, and electricity storage. Transportation topics will address a variety of technologies, including hybrids and fuels cells, as well as the potential role for alternative fuels, including biofuels. Climate change and the potential impact and mitigation of carbon dioxide will be considered throughout the course. Offered online or onsite, twice per year.

    425.602 - Science of Climate Change and its Impact

    The course will present the fundamental science of how the climate system works and describe both natural and human-forced variability in climate. Students will also learn about the observed and projected impacts of climate change through the examination of observational data and climate/Earth system model predictions and projections. Material in the course will be organized around three central themes: (1) physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, focused on the greenhouse effect; (2) the carbon cycle and its relation to the energy system; and (3) predictions and projections of climate change. Students will engage with the material through class discussions and a diverse set of assignments. Climate change and the potential impact and mitigation of carbon dioxide will be considered throughout the course. Offered online or onsite, twice per year.

    425.603 - Climate Change Policy Analysis

    After a study at the historical development of climate change policy, this course analyzes current policy options for mitigating for and adapting to long-term climate change. The course will examine various approaches available in the US for national level policy, including the regulatory approach and the market-based approaches, particularly cap-and-trade and carbon taxation. Various models for designing a cap and trade system will be studied, including the European experience and regional programs in the United States. Special attention will be paid to methods for setting initial prices and accounting for discounts. The course will focus primarily on national level carbon management policies, but international agreements will also be included, as well as equity considerations on a global level. Offered online or onsite, twice per year.

    425.604 - Energy & Climate Finance

    Energy and Climate Finance introduces students to environmental markets and the policies that create them, focusing mainly on emissions trading systems (ETS) to mitigate climate change. The course also provides an introduction to attributes of the financial sector through its analysis of markets for environmental commodities. Students learn the economic theory behind market-based environmental policy instruments such as tradable renewable energy credits, carbon offsets, and water rights in a semester of lectures featuring presentations from practitioners including state and federal government, private companies subject to market-based emissions regulation, commodity brokers and representatives from international institutions. Offered online or onsite, twice per year.

  • Capstone

    425.800 - Research Design for Capstone Projects in Energy and Environmental Sciences

    Research Design for Capstone Projects in Energy and Environmental Sciences. Research Design for Capstone Projects in Energy and Environmental Sciences enables students to apply and synthesize the material learned in other courses, develop expertise on a specific topic related to climate change science or policy, work closely with experts in the field of study and improve professional writing and presentation skills. In the semester prior to conducting the project, students must identify a project topic and mentor who is both familiar with the chosen topic and willing to guide and oversee the project. The mentor may be a faculty member teaching in the program, a supervisor from the student’s place of work or any expert with appropriate credentials. Formal proposals must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the start of the semester in which the project is to be completed. Prior to the enrollment in the course, the proposal must be reviewed and accepted by the course instructor.

  • Elective Courses

    425.605 - Introduction to Energy Law & Policy

    This course will provide an overview of the major laws and policies that shape and regulate the complex energy system of the United States and, to a lesser degree, the world. The goal is to provide students with a framework for understanding the energy laws and policies of today and those likely to be important in coming years. The course will review laws and policies for all major types of energy including fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewables as well as issues related to extraction, conversion, distribution, use, and conservation. Laws and policies ranging from local-level to state, federal, and international levels will be included. Laws and policies will be presented against in the context of profound and rapid changes occurring in the energy system, climate change and other environmental issues, economics, national security, and population growth. The course will be largely empirical, but attention will be given to major theories. Most aspects of the course will be illustrated by reference to contemporary issues such as the recently unveiled Clean Power Plan; court decisions; climate change negotiations; and, changes in state policies and federal tax policies for renewables

    425.615 - Understanding Public Attitudes and Behaviors for the Communication of Climate and Energy Policy

    The enormous gains in environmental protection achieved in the latter half of the 20th century in the United States can primarily be credited to legal policy instruments that targeted point-source pollution through legislation such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. However, that successful framework has been ill-equipped to handle the myriad sources of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and passing new national climate change legislation has remained frustratingly out of reach. To meet these challenges, citizens will need to make both political and consumer decisions about climate change and energy. Public attitudes influence what is believed to be politically possible in passing new legislation, and consumer decisions contribute to as much as 40% of national emissions. These conditions have generated renewed interests in low-cost, non-regulatory ?soft policy? approaches based on social science to inform public decision-making and behavior change. Communication? Whether in the form of information provision, participatory decision-making, or social marketing ?is among the foremost of these strategies. This course will introduce you to a growing literature on the use of social science research in informing and evaluating climate change and energy policies. Understanding some of the terms and concepts used in social science research will help you critically evaluate research commissioned by the organizations for which you work, or even just survey toplines reported by the media. The course will challenge you not only to think about the varied communication factors that influence human decision-making and behavior, but to use that information in designing and evaluating programs. Offered onsite, at least once every two years.

    425.622 - Renewable Energy and Proactive Climate Change in Benelux

    Renewable Energy and Proactive Climate Change in Benelux. Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal according the International Panel on Climate Change. Facing the combined issues of limited fossil fuel reserves and that ongoing CO2 emissions are contributing to global warming, the governments in Europe have decided to move towards more sustainable energy systems and to develop national projects to protect vulnerable coastal areas from expected sea level rise. European Union (EU) nations are world leaders in the development of renewable energy sources and have recently proposed a common renewable energy policy in the European Renewable Energy Directive, creating the binding obligations to all of its members with the aim of ‘reaching the EU target of consuming 20 percent of its energy in form of renewables by 2020.’ On the climate side, the 2030 framework for climate and energy policies in Europe propose a centerpiece policy of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40%. The course will highlight current and near-future renewable energy projects in an on-ground learning experience with national stakeholders in Europe. The course will be held in the heart of Western Europe, the Benelux (Belgium-Luxembourg-Netherlands) Region. This course explores the specific examples where these nations have strong proactive polices on renewable development. We will specifically explore how the nation of Luxembourg, the immediate surrounding areas of Belgium and the Lorraine Region of France, and the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands, have solved some of the current energy issues via renewable energy solutions as well as developing very proactive climate policies. Field course in Benelux (2 weeks in DC and 1 week in Benelux). Prerequisite: Principles and Applications of Energy Technologies or permission from instructor.

    425.623 - Transportation Policy in a Carbon-constrained World

    This course examines how transportation decisions and policy can affect climate change, and the transportation solutions available to help solve the problem of climate change. Three sets of policies are examined that can reduce GHGs from the transportation sector cleaner vehicles, low GHG-emitting fuels and better management of travel demand. Each policy is covered in detail in this course. Prerequisites: Principles and Applications of Energy Technologies. Offered onsite or online at least once every two years.

    425.624 - Wind Energy:Science, Technology and Policy

    Topics include the assessment of wind resources, basic principles of wind turbines and power transmission, electricity markets and wind power, technological and economic aspects of storage of intermittent wind power, legal issues at state and federal levels, international water issues, and environmental impact assessment processes for wind developments. Offered online or onsite at least once every two years. Prerequisite: Principles and Applications of Energy Technologies.

    425.625 - Solar Energy:Science, Technology & Policy

    This course focuses on the two primary solar technologies in the contemporary market; photovoltaic cells (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP), with a focus on PV. The course will investigate techniques for increasing efficiency, expanding storage and decreasing price. Solar energy for use as both distributed and grid-independent resources is considered. The course covers science and technologies as well as the environmental impact of solar technologies. Additionally, the course examines the market structure considerations for solar technology development. Offered onsite at least once every two years. Prerequisite: Principles and Applications of Energy Technology.

    425.628 - Renewable Energy Project Development and Finance

    This course examines the legal and regulatory issues associated with renewable energy projects (wind, solar, geothermal, etc?). Various ownership arrangements and contract agreements for successful development and financing will be examined. The federal and state level regulatory structure governing renewable energy project development and finance will be studied. Offered onsite at least once every two years. Prerequisite: Carbon Management and Finance

    425.630 - Cities and Climate Change

    This course examines cities as the primary centers of energy demand; as major sources of greenhouse gases; as places most vulnerable to climate change impacts; and as logical focal points for mitigation and adaptation solutions. Local level government climate policy and financing options are also examined, including alternative energy production, resilient water systems, green buildings, energy efficient transport and sustainable infrastructure generally, local level offsets, and urban-based Clean Development Mechanisms. Analytical methods are introduced to understand current approaches to decision-making. Offered online at least once every two years. Prerequisites: Climate Change Policy Analysis.

    425.634 - Climate Change and Human Health

    This course examines the potential impacts on human health from global climate change and the possible responses to and adaptations for these impacts. Topics include impacts on health of climate extremes, climate change and infectious diseases, health and climate refugees, national assessments of health impacts of climate change, monitoring the health effects of climate change, and public health policies for climate change. Prerequisite: Science of Climate Change and Its Impacts.

    425.635 - Climate Modeling Techniques

    The course is a survey of the history of climate modeling and also includes current modeling techniques. Students will understand the strengths and weaknesses of each climate model and how well climate models capture various processes. This class emphasizes the climate models prediction for the future with special attention to global level predictions. Offered onsite, at least once every two years. Prerequisite: Science of Climate Change and Its Impacts.

    425.637 - International Climate Change Policy

    This course focuses on the development and implementation of international frameworks, policies, and mechanisms for responding to climate change. It includes a review of the history of international responses to climate change at the multilateral and bilateral levels, including in depth examination of the recent Paris Agreement from COP21. The course explores how climate change impacts and issues relate to the national vision, governmental priorities, and capacity needs of countries, and how these circumstances shape the evolution of climate change policy and related policy areas, such as trade and energy. It also explores the interplay between subnational, national, and international policy formation and implementation. Offered onsite at least once every two years. Prerequisite - Science of Climate Change and Its Impacts, Climate Change Policy Analysis.

    425.638 - Adaptation to Climate Change

    Global climate change risks are increasingly complex and may ultimately affect virtually every facet of our economic, energy, community and environmental systems. At the same time, policy and investment responses to climate resiliency needs are similarly complex, controversial, and high stakes. Perhaps no issue facing leaders of today and tomorrow is more cross cutting in nature, or in greater need of improved understanding and capability, than climate change risk. This course will provide a comprehensive framework for understanding, assessing and applying climate change risk, vulnerability and hazard assessment for the development of risk reduction and adaptation responses. In the process, it will examine the scope, status, limitations, and strengths of current assessment and action planning approaches across varying sectors, scales and impact areas. The course will also include review of methods for prioritizing actions and addressing feasibility, flexibility, and logistical needs as applied to specific facilities, such as military installations, as well broader communities and multistate regions. Individual and group learning exercises will be involved. Offered onsite at least once every two years.

    425.640 - The Future of the US Electric System in a Carbon-Constrained World

    The course looks at the future of the U.S. electric system and the influence of climate change on it. The class will explore the increasing demands for low-carbon emissions, the need for increased quantity and quality of electric power, cybersecurity requirements, and other related issues. Class topics include constraints on the system such as the need for reliability, affordability, and geographic differences in the system and consumers requirements. The course will assess the strengths and weaknesses of current and next generation technologies expected to transform our Nation's electric infrastructure, e.g., smart grid, renewable and distributed systems, and superconductivity. Students will learn the complexity of renovating this 120-year old system and the promise it holds for the future. Offered onsite at least once every two years.

    425.644 - Principles & Applications of Energy Technology II

    This course builds on a number of ideas covered in the core EPT course, and as with the first course uses and integrates a broad range of ideas from science, engineering and economics. The course has two distinct but overlapping themes that will be often be covered in parallel. First, the course will broaden and deepen the coverage of the how some of the energy technologies discussed in the core course work, with a slightly more formal discussion and use of ideas from mechanics and thermodynamics, including the role of entropy; a few newer potential technologies, such as fusion and ocean will also be covered. Second the course will extend the coverage of the economics and operation of energy markets to provide a deeper understanding of how to value energy generation assets when facing an uncertain future, on both a stand-alone and integrated basis, and how these considerations play out in real electricity markets, including the role of energy, capacity and ancillary services. The course will include coverage of the potential role of energy storage and/or demand side management in integrating large scale renewable energy into the grid from both an operational and economic perspective.

    425.645 - Global Energy Policy

    Energy policy is about more than sheer market design. Policy agendas have become increasingly complex, adding sustainability and development to traditional energy security concerns. In response, a patchwork of institutional frameworks have emerged, including clubs (OPEC, IEA), treaties, Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), agencies, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) or policy networks, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP). The course introduces students to the global dimensions of energy policy; discusses shifting agendas; and assesses the institutional spectrum of global energy governance. Offered online at least once every two years.

    425.646 - US Offshore Energy: Policy, Science and Technology

    Offshore energy is progressively becoming a significant part of the U.S. energy mix. Oil from offshore platforms now accounts for roughly one-third of the U.S. domestic production, and significant interest has emerged for developing renewable energy resources in the ocean and the Great Lakes. Large-scale offshore wind projects have been proposed along the East Coast, and there is also interest in developing wave energy off the West Coast and the Pacific islands. Ocean current and tidal energy are the other emerging sources. This course will take a multi-disciplinary approach to offshore energy analysis. We will discuss both renewable resources such as offshore wind, and conventional resources such as offshore oil and gas. Topics covered will include: resource assessment, state and federal regulations, economics of offshore energy, environmental impact and benefits, space-use conflicts, cultural/tribal issues, public perception, offshore energy technology, and energy infrastructure. We will also review case studies on the proposed Cape Wind project and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In addition, we will discuss the recently launched National Ocean Policy initiative and how it is influencing offshore energy regulation. Subject-matter experts from federal regulatory agencies will be invited as guest speakers. By the end of the course, students will understand policies and regulations governing offshore energy in the U.S. They will also be conversant with the economics of resource development, technological drivers for harnessing the resources, and the scientific advances in assessing and mitigating environmental impact from energy production in offshore areas. Offered onsite at least once every two years.