Transitions to a Low Carbon Economy

16 - 20 December 2019

This module focuses on the transitions needed from the current situations in energy use, supply, markets and policy, to those required as part of a long term, sustainable, low carbon energy system.

Further information

Module overview

Module co-ordinator Prof Matthew Leach
Other contributors from Surrey Walter Wehrmeyer
  Mohammed Sanduk
  Richard Murphy
  Matthew Arnold
Other contributors external Sarah Taylor
  Yacob Mulugetta
  Joanne Wade
  Robert Gross
  Chris Mazur
Module availability Semester 1
Overall student workload 150 hours
Contact hours 35
Guided study 15
Independent study 100
Units of assessment Weighting towards Module Mark (%)
Pre-module assignment linked to pre-reading 20%
Group project work undertaken during module week 20%
Post-module individual essay 60%

Alternative assessment: Individual essay for pre-module assignment or group project work; different choice of essay topic for post-module assignment.

Qualifying condition(s): A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module.

Pre-requisite/co-requisites: None.

Energy use and the systems put in place to supply it are responsible for the majority of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide and hence, much climate change policy is directed towards the energy sector. Energy is also central to economic development and social welfare and thus, energy security and cost minimisation are high on national policy agendas.

Energy markets throughout the world are also evolving rapidly, with privatisation, competition, market structure and regulation remaining prominent issues in the UK, Europe and internationally. The range of challenges for energy policy is diverse and exciting.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Develop specialist knowledge of the energy field within a more general environmental/sustainability framework
  • Provide students from natural science, engineering, social science and other backgrounds with a broad understanding of the role of energy, and of the range of economic, human and environmental impacts associated with energy systems.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Understand the range of issues relevant to energy policy (K)*
  • Capable of contributing to policy and strategic energy/carbon management analyses in a broad range of areas across the energy sector (K, C, T, P)*
  • Able to apply their knowledge appropriately to energy issues in both developed and developing countries (K, C, P)*
  • Able to write clear, critical and authoritative reports, both on technical subjects and on policy issues concerning energy (T, P)*.

*Key: C - Cognitive and analytical; K - Subject knowledge; T - Transferable skills; P - Professional and practical skills.

Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Introduction to energy: Overview of end use, supply, economics and policy
  • Energy end use: Current patterns and trends (including transport)
  • Energy conversion and supply: Overview of resources; functions of markets; focus on electricity, heat for buildings and transport fuels
  • Low carbon energy options: Carbon management and demand side actions; carbon capture and storage; renewables and nuclear
  • Low carbon scenarios and energy system transitions; Economics and timing of CO2 mitigation; Links to sustainable development and other policy objectives
  • Accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy: Role of institutions, behavioural change and policy
  • Open discussion on energy sector responses to climate change.

Methods of learning and teaching

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Motivate students to engage with the breadth of this subject, and to learn to take a multidisciplinary perspective, integrating technical, economic and social science understandings
  • Provide students with a thorough knowledge of a variety of approaches to analysing and developing transitions and help them to integrate and apply their existing knowledge.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Pre-course study directed by essential readings
  • Lectures, seminars, audio and video presentations
  • Class discussions
  • Group case study
  • Post course study.

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • Basic knowledge of the topic, at the start of the module
  • In depth knowledge and understanding of one or more sectors or topics by the end of the module
  • Ability to analyse and synthesise information to produce strategies and recommendations.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Pre-module short answer assignment linked to pre-reading, max 1000 words. Submitted by 9am on the first day of the module
  • Group project work undertaken during module week; Report max five pages. Submitted by 5pm on the last day of the module
  • 2500 word post-module individual essay. Submitted four weeks after the end of the module.

Formative assessment and feedback students will receive:

  • Feedback on the pre-module assignment, during the module week
  • Feedback on the first pieces of the groupwork, during the module week
  • Feedback on the group presentation made on the final day.

Further information


This will be a week long course 16 - 20 December 2019


Price per person:

  • £1275.00 - Standard rate

For group bookings or bespoke training please email Deidre Richardson

How to apply

Please email all application enquiries to Deidre Richardson or the Programme Director, Dr Jonathan Chenoweth

Payment can be accepted by purchase order, credit card or bank transfer.  Please note that we do not charge VAT as we are an educational establishment.

Payments will be accepted subject to availability.

Essential reading

Specific sections will be suggested in the pre-module information provided.

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2000). Twenty-second report: Energy : the changing climate.

UNDP (2005). Energy Services for the Millennium Development Goals.

DECC (2014). Community Energy Strategy

Department for Transport (2007). Low Carbon Transport Innovation Strategy

POST (2008) The Transition to a Low Carbon Economy. PostNote 318. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, London.

Timothy J Foxon, Geoffrey P Hammond and Peter J Pearson (2008), Transition pathways for a low carbon energy system in the UK: assessing the compatibility of large-scale and small-scale options. Paper for 7th BIEE Academic Conference, St Johns College, Oxford, 24-25 September 2008.

Recommended reading

Specific sections will be suggested in the pre-module information provided.

UNFCCC (2008). Clean Development Mechanism in Brief.

Department for Transport (2009). Low Carbon Transport: A Greener Future, Department for Transport (2004)

Smarter Choices – Changing the way we travel.

Timothy J Foxon, Geoffrey P Hammond and Peter J Pearson (2010), Developing transition pathways for a low carbon electricity system in the UK. Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Pacala, S. and Socolow, R., "Stabilization wedges: Solving the climate problem for the next 50 years with current technologies" Science, Vol. 305, 2004, pp. 968-972.

IPCC, eg 4th Assessment report, and working papers on specific topics.

Background reading

David Mackay (2008). Sustainable Energy – without the hot air.

Ivan Scrase and Gordon MacKerron (2009) Energy for the future: A New Agenda. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.


If you have any queries about this module then please contact Deidre Richardson:

Contact us

Find us

Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Arthur C Clarke building, Floor 2
University of Surrey