A global revolution in the energy sector is occurring, with technology costs declining rapidly and over 160 countries and countless subnational and local governments committing to renewable and sustainble energy targets.  In the last decade, wind power capacity worldwide has grown by over 370%, annual biodiesel production has increased by 1100%, and solar photovoltaic capacity has grown by a staggering 6700%.  CU Boulder's Undergraduate RASEI Certificate equips students with skills and knowledge that transcend traditional disciplines and prepare them for careers in this rapidly growing industry.  Open to all majors and all colleges, the certificate combines a broad understanding of the business, policy, economic, and institutional aspects of energy with students' own strengths and disciplinary skill sets to foster the critical thinkers and problem solvers who will shoulder the monumental challenge of transforming the global energy system. 

Solar panels on CU roof

Why a certificate program?

Solving society's energy-related problems is not just a technical challenge. It will require contributions from law, business, humanities, journalism, and other disciplines as well. This undergraduate certificate program is intended to supplement undergraduate degree programs. Graduates from this certificate program—regardless of their undergraduate major—will have a strong understanding of energy science and technologies, energy alternatives, energy markets and business, and energy policy. They will be well-prepared to apply their disciplinary knowledge to the energy challenge.

Participating Faculty/Program Governance

Adam Reed, RASEI Education Director and an Instructor in Environmental Studies, directs this program. Decisions about the program, including those related to course requirements and admissions, are made by the Energy Certificate Committee. Members of this Committee are:

Program Requirements

In order to earn the certificate, students must apply to and be accepted into the program. The certificate program requires 18 hours of coursework: 9 for core courses, and 9 for electives.

The core courses cover the essentials of renewable and sustainable energy:

  • The first required course (ENVS/PHYS 3070) provides an understanding of energy science and technology: resources, units of measurement, physical principles and limits, conversion technologies, and environmental impacts.
  • The second required course (ENVS 3621) provides an understanding of energy politics, policy, and economics: how society makes decisions about energy, what are the policy tools that can influence energy use and how do they work, how stakeholders interact to yield energy policy decisions.
  • The third required course (ENST 4150) is a projects course, in which students’ energy knowledge is applied to a specific energy challenge or problem.

These core courses are followed by electives, which allow students to focus on specific areas that are of interest. These electives are varied, however they all share a focus on energy.

Core/Required Courses

Students must take the three courses listed below, and achieve a grade of C or better in all three courses.

Energy and the Environment. Contemporary issues in energy consumption and its environmental impact, including fossil fuel use and depletion; nuclear energy and waste disposal; solar, wind, hydroelectric, and other renewable sources; home heating; energy storage; fuel cells; and alternative transportation vehicles. Included are some basic physical concepts and principles that often constrain choices. No background in physics is required. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: natural science. Offered Fall and Spring semesters.

NOTE: ECEN 1500 'Sustainable Energy' can also be substituted for ENVS/PHYS 3070

ENVS 3621
Energy Policy and Society. Examines how society makes decisions about energy, and how these decisions affect the environment and the economy. Uses tools from policy analysis, economics, and other disciplines to build an in-depth understanding of energy’s role in U.S. contemporary society. Offered Spring semester.

ENST 4150 Energy Project
This projects course will apply students’ energy knowledge to a particular problem or issue. The specific problem would vary by semester and instructor, however example problems include: Developing a plan for CU to meet its carbon neutrality goals, assessing Boulder’s potential for increased energy efficiency, analyzing options for Colorado to increase its use of renewable energy, and developing recommendations for Colorado’s role in the Western Climate Initiative. Students will be expected to develop a policy-relevant class final report/plan, and present it to decision-makers.

Elective Courses

Students must take 9 credits of qualifying electives. Any of the energy-related courses listed at the RASEI web site can count as an elective, and students may petition for other relevant courses, such as independent study courses, to count. In addition, the following courses can also count as electives:

ATOC 3500 Air Chemistry and Pollution
ATOC 4800 Policy and Climate
ENVS 3100 Sustainability Consulting
GEEN 3300 Sustainability and Ethics

This list will be modified when new energy-relevant courses are offered. Existing courses can be nominated for this list as well – see the FAQ section below.

How To Apply

Only currently enrolled CU-Boulder undergraduate students are eligible for the program (although the core courses are open to all students). This includes part-time students, but is limited to students who are in an undergraduate degree program. Students in joint undergraduate/graduate degree programs are not eligible, but should instead consider the graduate energy certificate program.

Applications to the program are accepted starting February 1, with all applications and application materials due by March 1. Admissions decisions are made by April 1. Acceptance will be based on the qualifications of the student, as well as the importance of fostering a diversity of disciplinary representation within the program.

Applicants need to submit the following:

A current CU-Boulder transcript.
A one-page statement of purpose: Why do you want to enroll in this program?

All materials should be submitted electronically as PDF attachments, emailed to RASEI-Education@colorado.edu. Make sure your name is on both PDF documents. Please name your files LastName_Transcript and LastName_Statement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Probably. The certificate program allows for this. However, you should check with your home department/program to ensure that they allow this.

Yes. All CU-Boulder undergraduate students are eligible for this program.

No. The first core course, ENVS/PHYS 3070, provides basic energy knowledge.

Send an email to RASEI-Education@colorado.edu with details on the course, including a syllabus or web site link if available. We'll review it and let you know if it qualifies.