"There is a clear and growing societal need for experts in energy, with skills and knowledge that transcend traditional disciplines. What's needed is not just technical expertise, but rather technical competence combined with a broader understanding of the business, policy, economics, and institutional aspects of energy."  -CU-Boulder, Energy Education Committee, Final Report, May 2007

CU-Boulder's graduate energy certificate program provides a broad exposure to energy issues, with an emphasis on renewable and sustainable energy. Required coursework on energy science and technology, policy, and business; coupled with electives on energy economics, journalism, and other topics, give students the skills and knowledge to tackle society's pressing energy problems.

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 graduate certificate program is intended to supplement, not replace, graduate students' degree programs. Graduates from this certificate program - whether they have J.D.s. MBAs., Masters degrees, or doctorates - 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, RSE Education Director, coordinates and manages 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

The certificate program requires 18 hours of coursework: 9 hours for core courses, and 9 hours for electives.

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

  • An understanding of energy science, systems, and technology: resources, units of measurement, conversion technologies, supply and demand trends and forecasts.
  • An understanding of energy politics, policy, and law: 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.
  • An understanding of energy markets and business. How the private sector influences energy supply, demand, and conversion; how energy markets operate; opportunities and risks in energy markets and energy businesses.

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.

Required Courses

Students must take the three courses listed below, and achieve a grade of C or better in all three courses. It is recommended that the courses be taken in the sequence shown.

ENST 5000 Energy Science and Technology

This course provides an understanding of the basics of energy science and technologies. The course starts with energy concepts (such as 'power, 'resources,' and 'carriers'), and then takes a closer look at how the U.S. produces, transforms, and consumes energy. The course explores how energy use contributes to environmental challenges, notably climate change. The course then assesses alternatives, including renewables and energy efficiency, to better understand their potentials and limitations. No technical background is required.  Taught by Paul Komor.  View the syllabus here!

NOTE: Completion of a similar course, or substantive energy work experience, may be able to substitute for ENST 5000. See the FAQ section.

ENST 5001/ENVS 5820 Energy Policy in the 21st Century

The global energy system has been described as "the world's largest machine."  This description, while accurate in scale, can hide the fact that large-scale energy systems are social as well as technological phenomena.  These socio-technical systems are operated, directed, and changed by human beings possessed of agency, values, and conflicts.  This course will examine the policies, laws, customs, and practices at varying levels of international, national, and subnational governance that shape the global sociotechnical energy system.  We will pay special attention to policies and approaches that envision the system's transformation toward sustainability, arguably the overarching goal of human civilization in the 21st Century.  Students in this course work in groups with real-world clients in the private, nonprofit, and government sectors to complete a semester-long energy policy project.  Taught by Adam Reed.  View the syllabus here!

ENST 5002/BADM6930 The Business of Sustainable Energy

Addresses the business of renewable and sustainable energy, including opportunities and challenges with renewable electricity, renewable transportation fuels, and energy efficiency. Topics include energy markets, opportunity identification, life cycle analysis, economic analysis, policy impacts, and project financing of sustainable and rewnable energy business models. Prerequisites:  restricted to graduate students. Taught by Steve Lawrence.

Elective Courses

Students must take 9 credits of qualifying electives. All energy courses qualify as electives, with one exception: courses with course numbers below 4000 do not qualify.

The following courses qualify as well:

ATOC 4800 Policy and Climate
ATOC 5000 Critical Issues in Policy and Climate
ENVS 5100 The Nuclear West
JOUR 5812 Science writing
JOUR 5822 Reporting on the Environment

We recommend, but do not require, that at least 3 of the 9 elective credits be taken outside of the student's home school or department.

How To Apply

Applications are accepted during the fall semester, for admission the following spring semester. Applications are accepted starting October 1, and the deadline for all application materials is November 15. Decisions are made by December 1. Applicants are asked to submit the following:

  • A current CU-Boulder transcript; unofficial copies are acceptable.
  • A one-page statement of purpose: why do you want to enroll in this program?
  • Your most recent standardized test score: GRE, LSAT, or GMAT

All materials should be submitted electronically as PDF attachments and emailed to energy_certificate@colorado.edu.

Questions?  Read our Frequently Asked Questions.