Curriculum

The MA in Sustainable Energy (online) is a part-time, cohort-based program that is completed in 21 months. The coursework prepares graduates with fundamental sustainable energy business skills, while giving them opportunities to critically evaluate energy policies and develop solutions for some of the most challenging issues in the energy sector.

Group of SAIS students at a meeting with laptops In addition to online coursework, the program features two in-person residencies in Washington DC. The first residency is held over one-week and offers the opportunity to connect with peers and the Johns Hopkins SAIS community. The second residency includes the capstone project presentation and culminates with participation in the Johns Hopkins SAIS commencement ceremony. Visit our residency experiences page for more information.


Learning Outcomes

  • Provide students with advanced skills and knowledge to lead the global community to a decarbonized energy sector to help mitigate climate change.
  • Introduce students to the economics of sustainable energy sources and the financing options available in the sector.
  • Lead students to explore and understand the impact of international institutions and global governance in promoting sustainable energy and mitigating climate change.
  • Help students develop a systemic view of the various parts of sustainable energy systems and its functions.

Course Descriptions

This course identifies the key issues and challenges confronting policymakers, civil society, and business leaders in global energy. It focuses on how oil, natural gas, coal, and electricity markets are organized and function, and on the major energy end-use sectors of transportation, buildings, and industry. Students will examine the sustainability challenges arising from current energy production and use, with a focus on the link between energy and climate change. Students will evaluate the range of technology and policy options that could resolve these sustainability challenges, while considering government and private sector roles, regulatory and governance implications, geopolitical factors, technology trade-offs and commercialization challenges, and economic effects. Students will also assess the role and importance of emerging economies, in particular energy access in the poorest countries.

This course identifies the important linkages between energy and environment. It focuses on how the pollution abatement policies work and examines the use of market-based instruments. Students will analyze policy challenges in resource conservation and waste management, investigate how politics and political economy interfere with energy policy, and evaluate the role of energy policy in climate change mitigation. The use of policy tools to promote clean technology innovation in energy will be reviewed. Students will also assess trade-offs between environmental conservation and economic growth and apply principles of policy analysis to manage global environmental problems in the energy sector.

This course introduces the economics of sustainable energy. Using a variety of graphical and analytical tools, the course introduces basic concepts and tools in the economic analysis of sustainable energy. Besides covering the basics of energy and environmental economics, the course pays particular attention to the economics of sustainable energy sources. Economics of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and nuclear power are also considered. Topics covered also include economics of positive and negative externalities, carbon pricing and markets, and other sustainable energy policies. Students learn through lectures, readings, and a number of individual and group assignments for hands-on experience.

This course serves as an in-depth survey of distributed and renewable energy sources. Due to rapid technological advances, sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind power are increasingly competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear power. What is more, interest in distributed energy generation including rooftop solar, mini-grids, and home systems offers new opportunities for resilience and rural electrification in remote areas. These energy sources face a number of specific techno-economic, regulatory, and political challenges. Students gain detailed knowledge of distributed and renewable energy, their potential, and challenges to expanding them.

This course aims to connect sustainable energy to the challenge of climate change. The energy sector is the most important source of greenhouse gases, and decarbonizing energy is necessary for effective climate mitigation. The course reviews the problem of climate change in the energy sector and opportunities for sustainable energy. The course covers not only the power sector, but also industrial energy and heating. In the class, students gain a broad overview of the challenge of low-carbon energy, potential technical solutions, and policy options for pursuing them.

Environmental problems such as climate change are global in nature. Solving them requires global governance through international cooperation. In this course, students learn about the global governance of sustainable energy. The course explores the challenge of globalizing sustainable energy, introduces the most important global institutions that govern sustainable energy, and offers students an opportunity to conduct global policy analysis. Besides formal international organizations, the course explores non-state, transnational forms of global governance in the area of sustainable energy.

Energy is a necessity for economic development. Without abundant and affordable energy, economies cannot power their agriculture, industry, and services. In this course, students learn about the problem of energy for economic development, with a particular emphasis on the opportunities of sustainable energy. The course introduces key trade-offs between economic development and environmental protection in energy planning. The course emphasizes the opportunities and challenges of sustainable energy with comparative analysis of experiences in key emerging economies from Brazil to China and India.

Energy systems consist of hardware, such as pipelines and power plants, and software, such as societal practices and institutions. This course introduces students to systems thinking in the field of sustainable energy. Students learn how to detect, understand, and analyze complex cause-effect relationships in the global energy system. The course covers topics such as life cycle assessment, socio-technical systems, the water-energy nexus, and integrated assessment.

In this course, students learn the basics of sustainable energy finance. The course introduces the problem of financing sustainable energy and how it has evolved over time. The student learns about typical financial arrangements in energy, with a particular emphasis on sustainable sources of energy. Students also gain direct exposure to basic financial tools used by project developers, financiers, and policymakers. Climate finance and green finance feature prominently in the class.

The degree culminates in a capstone research project. The capstone research project focuses on a broad, common theme but allows students to choose a focus that reflects their interests and future career plans. The goal is to solve an important problem of practical importance in the field of sustainable energy. Where appropriate, the capstone project can be done in collaboration with a client organization from private, government, or civil society sectors. The capstone project begins with a residency led by a faculty advisor midway toward the degree. During the last semester of the degree, the student prepares a report, a PPT deck, an in-person presentation, and an executive summary. The capstone culminates in a closing session in Washington, DC with student presentations, panels, and detailed feedback from the faculty.