1 year full time, 2 years part time
Starts September 2017

Energy Policy

Take on a defining challenge for humanity in the 21st century – creating a global low-carbon economy while providing modern energy services to the world’s population.

This MSc offers a broad-based, social sciences training in energy policy, focusing in particular on the role of technological innovation.

You'll explore the opportunities, challenges and constraints in creating sustainable and low-carbon energy systems throughout the world. Our approach is interdisciplinary, practical and applied, providing you with the skills to analyse policy problems and to propose and evaluate viable policy solutions.

The course gives you an essential foundation for careers in government, international organisations, the private sector and NGOs.

This Masters is recognised by the ESRC-funded South East Network for Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership as a pathway to doctoral study.

With this MSc I am better equipped to influence, inspire, educate and negotiate more effectively in order to address the need to transition to sustainable energy systems.”Cameron Jones
Sustainable Electricity Analyst
Department of Energy, Alberta, Canada

Key facts

  • You're taught by internationally recognised faculty from SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit and the Sussex Energy Group, one of the largest energy policy research groups in the world.
  • The course is unique in combining ideas from economics, innovation studies and policy studies (among other approaches) while requiring no prior training in these fields.
  • You're based in the School of Business, Management and Economics, ranked among the top institutions in the UK for research in energy economics (Research Papers in Economics – RePEc 2017).

How will I study?

Teaching is via small, highly interactive lectures and seminars that foster a culture of knowledge sharing, ideas generation, critical thinking and enthusiastic debate.

You’ll study a combination of core modules and options, assessed through:

  • coursework
  • group projects
  • examinations
  • extended essays
  • presentations
  • policy briefs.

In the summer, you work on a research-based dissertation. We encourage interaction, collaboration and creativity. You’re invited to participate in our programme of research seminars as well as conferences and workshops.

Full-time and part-time study

You can choose to study this course full time or part time. Find the modules for the full-time course below. 

For details about the part-time course structure, contact us at

What will I study?

  • Module list

    Core modules

    Core modules are taken by all students on the course. They give you a solid grounding in your chosen subject and prepare you to explore the topics that interest you most.

    • Introduction to Energy Policy

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      We introduce you to the context and history of energy and sustainability policy, the core issues and challenges within it, the trade-offs and synergies between different objectives and the concepts and methods through which the policy process may be understood and individual policy options appraised.

      First, we cover the:

      • physical basis of energy systems
      • scale, nature, source and destination of energy flows within the global economy
      • relationship between energy consumption, economic growth and human welfare
      • nature and characteristics of energy transitions
      • challenge of climate change and sustainability.

      Second, you:

      • gain an overview of key concepts, theories and tools from orthodox economics (e.g. market failures, externalities)
      • identify the limits and drawbacks of policy intervention
      • highlight the relevance of these ideas to contemporary challenges within energy and sustainability policy (e.g. carbon pricing, regulation of natural monopolies).

      Third, we will provide critiques of this perspective from within and outside the economics tradition and introduce students to complementary perspectives on the policy process drawn from political science. You will explore these ideas with the help of both case studies from developed and developing countries and a global simulation model of the energy system.

    • Policy Making and Policy Analysis

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      In this module, you are introduced to the nature and operation of the policy process in contemporary economies. And you develop a systematic approach to policy analysis.

      As part of the module, you are introduced to the major concepts and theories relevant to understanding the policy process, together with a systematic method of thinking about the formulation, adoption, implementation, and evaluation of public policies.

      You develop the skills required to define and critically analyse policy issues and problems, articulate decision-making criteria and propose and evaluate alternative policy solutions.

      You apply these ideas to specific topics in:

      • science
      • innovation
      • energy
      • development
      • security policy.
    • Science, Technology and Innovations: Markets, Firms and Policies

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      The aim of this module is to introduce you to an ongoing tradition of research on innovation and the various analytical concepts and theories that are used in current academic, management and policy debates. It will explore the processes underlying knowledge accumulation and innovative activity within the global economy and review the historical and contemporary emergence of current innovation systems in both developed and developing country contexts. This includes analysis of the science system, technology, the management of innovation, the theory of the firm, the basis for public policy, environmental analysis, and innovation systems approaches.

      The module has a key focus on developing understanding that contributes towards practical analysis of innovation policy and management problems, and therefore provides a range of analytical frameworks for understanding and exploring the nature of public policy and its influence on the operations of business firms and other organisations. These frameworks include orthodox economics, evolutionary economics, science and technology studies and history.

      The module aims to develop you understanding of the economic perspective on issues of science and technology management and policy and helps you develop skills in using economic measures and indicators that inform business and public policy. 

      By the end of this module you will be able to:

      • distinguish several different schools of thought in economics by identifying their underlying assumptions and methods of reasoning 
      • explain the role of innovation from the perspectives of firm and individual choice and relate innovation to productivity, long-term economic growth, and competitiveness. 
      • identify sources of market dysfunction or failure including monopoly power, co-ordination failure, and principal-agent problems and understand the interventions or rule-setting that may prove useful in remedying these problems 
      • explain the consequences of globalisation for the international division of labour and the possible effects that this might have on localisation of economic activities 
      • demonstrate knowledge of technology and innovation system concepts and an understanding of their application in different technological, spatial, national and international contexts. 
      • demonstrate the analytical skills required to identify the interactions among key actors in technology and innovation systems, and to identify the main interactions running through these systems to link public policy and the innovative activities of business firms and other organisations. 
      • demonstrate the practical skills to clearly and concisely write an account of selected aspects of the innovation systems described above. 
    • Dissertation (Energy Policy for Sustainability)

      60 credits
      Summer Teaching, Year 1

      This module enables you to undertake a piece of research under the supervision of a member of SPRU faculty. You will be involved in the design and execution of a substantial piece of research on a topic that is relevant to the course. The dissertation runs from April to August and will consist of 20,000 words. Previous dissertations have been written on a very range of subjects such as the role of unconventional gas in the energy transition, overcoming obstacles to improving energy efficiency, the design of capacity markets to ensure electricity security and the prospects for community energy.


    Alongside your core modules, you can choose options to broaden your horizons and tailor your course to your interests.

    • Energy and Development

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The module will examine the substantive energy policy challenges faced by developing countries, including increasing energy access, reducing energy poverty and improving energy security. Integrating orthodox perspectives on energy policy with insights from innovation studies and socio-technical approaches, the course will explore the implications for development of notions such as lock-in, path dependency and leapfrogging. Building on this conceptual framework, the course will critically engage with academic and policy debates on topics such as low carbon development, technology transfer and carbon markets; all of which are intended to play roles in helping developing countries achieve development objectives while establishing sustainable energy systems. 

      This module will enable you to:

      • critically engage with contemporary academic and policy debates on energy policy and development 
      • demonstrate a systematic understanding of the tensions and complementarities between energy policy and sustainable development in a developing-country context 
      • analyse the roles of technology and innovation in energy for development 
      • demonstrate a critical awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of orthodox and alternative approaches to energy policy in developing countries. 
    • Governing and Using Technology for Development

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      In this module you gain critical theoretical tools and empirical insights into the processes of governance and use of controversial technologies in the global south.

      Many technologies are controversial – they mean different things to different people, and can distribute their benefits and costs unevenly. An automobile may be a reliable mean of transport for some, but a polluting and dangerous device for others. Expensive, genetically modified seeds may increase yields and profits for some farmers but produce indebtedness for many others and considered as agri-biodiversity and health hazards by activists. Biofuels may be viewed as an effective way to reduce emissions by some – but as a serious threat to food security by others.

      This module considers the questions raised by these disagreements and disputes. You cover significant questions about two central aims of much contemporary international development – environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. We ask can the (re)development and use of controversial technologies be governed by state/non-state actors towards greater environmental sustainability and inclusiveness? And if yes, how?

    • Governing Energy Transitions

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This modul will introduce you to a systems perspective on long-term, socio-technical change in the field of energy in order to explore the co-evolution of technologies with political, institutional, economic and social factors. The module will illustrate this conceptual perspective with historical case studies from the energy sector and explore the implications for governing transitions to a low carbon energy system in the developed world. You will analyse and reflect on current policy approaches to governing low carbon transitions. Substantive issues to be covered include: the historic transition from horse-drawn carriages to auto-mobility, low carbon innovation policy in the UK, the Energy Transition approach in the Netherlands, the politics of governing transitions and the role interests play, bottom-up approaches to changing energy systems such as the Transition Towns movement, the role of household practices as well as strategies of incumbent energy companies to respond to pressures for change towards a low carbon energy system. 

      This module will enable you to:

      • demonstrate a systematic knowledge of the definition and applicability of key innovation studies concepts to studying socio-technical change in energy systems, such as carbon lock-in, path dependency, co-evolution of technology with political, institutional, economic and social factors 
      • apply the conceptual understanding and empirical knowledge gained from the course to the analysis of a variety of energy systems in developed countries (including electricity generation, heat production and mobility) 
      • critically discuss and evaluate different policy approaches to governing low carbon transitions. 
    • Information and Communication Technology Policy and Strategy

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The module provides you with an overview of the strategic management and policy issues raised by the production and use of advanced information and communication technologies and services. Perspectives are drawn from economics, management and organisation theory, as well as political science and sociology. The focus is on the evolution of a complex technical system in the wider contexts of emerging user requirements in the public and private sectors. Much of the course is centred around the implications of the internet, particularly in terms of media conversion, regulation, productivity and employment, intellectual property rights and electronic commerce.

    • Innovation for Sustainability

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module will explore the role innovation can play in sustainable development in industrialised and developing countries, including (but not limited to) its importance in mitigating and adapting to climate change. A number of key ideas will be used to provide a framework for learning. These include past and current theory on sustainability, growth and competitiveness (with specific reference to the role of technology), understanding and influencing directions of innovation, and the governance of socio-technical transitions. Specific topics will be explored within each key idea. Examples include: social and technical innovations in energy and resource use efficiency; economic and other policy instruments to promote such innovations; barriers to the diffusion of sustainable innovations; the role of innovative green niches in systems transformations; and the challenges of international co-ordination. These will be illustrated with reference to real world cases in the manufacturing, housing, agriculture and energy sectors. 

      This module will enable you to:

      • articulate and utilise a working knowledge of issues concerning innovations and sustainability and to evaluate critically the main theoretical perspectives on innovation and the environment; 
      • apply concepts from innovation theory in analysing a range of contemporary environmental policy problems; 
      • research the innovation dimensions of a contemporary environmental problem using a mix of academic and policy literature, and 
      • demonstrate the understanding and intellectual skills identified above by means of clear and concise written work. 
    • Innovation in the Creative Economy

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      You will learn the key aspects underpinning the creative economy—a significant driver of growth in recent years— and develop an understanding of how innovation takes place in the creative industries. You will also learn how these innovations are commercialised. By linking theory with real-world practices, you'll discover how firms and other organisations leverage creativity, innovation and technology in order to create value, and how this value is captured and marketed.

    • Introduction to Statistical Research Methods

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The module aims to provide you with a basic understanding of descriptive statistics and statistical inference as they are used in the social sciences and to develop an adequate level of skill in the use of a leading statistical software package (SPSS) so that the you will be able to perform statistical analysis relevant for reaching social science research conclusions. This is done through extensive `hands-on practice. The coverage of descriptive statistics includes methods that can also be used for exploratory qualitative analysis.

      The module is organised in lectures and tutorials. The lectures provide an introduction to the theoretical and practical elements of each topic and offer an opportunity for discussion of, extensions to, and clarification of each topic. The tutorials in the computer room will introduce you to the use of the statistical software package SPSS. 

      This module will enable you to:

      • gain a critical awareness of the definition and proper use of descriptive statistical analysis. 
      • understand the definition and appropriate use of basic statistical inference. 
      • define and evaluate the use of descriptive and inferential statistical analysis to social sciences theories 
      • propose hypotheses and test them using the tools of descriptive and inferential statistical analysis. 
    • Management of Risk

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      Risk surrounds us, and risk management is crucial to organisations. This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the nature of risk and the role of risk management in modern organisations. From this, you develop an understanding of key processes involved in developing a risk management plan and techniques used to identify, assess and manage risk.

      We address the various aspects involved in the management of risk in project and operational business environments. Broader issues of technological risk are also addressed. Topics covered include the:

      • external and internal factors that contribute to the emergence and escalation of risks
      • processes required to manage those risk
      • involvement of stakeholder
      • tools and methods applied to identify assess and control risks
      • management of project risks associated with innovation and technology
      • interface between technological risks and their management within society.
    • Managing Knowledge

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module outlines the key institutional and organisational forms underpinning the emerging knowledge economy, looking closely at the pivotal role that knowledge workers play in the creation, application and diffusion of knowledge within and between firms.

      You will consider new approaches to managing learning processes in the firm, including recent developments such as knowledge management and novel organisational structures. You will explore the role of labour mobility through different types of knowledge worker communities and networks. You will also consider the role of open-source innovation and knowledge transfer within and across epistemic communities, the role of new human resource management approaches, and network mapping techniques. You will go on to consider how certain skills are coming to play a critical role in the knowledge economy, such as knowledge brokering and gate-keeping. Finally, you will explore how labour market institutions that impact on careers shape different approaches to knowledge generation, and be introduced to key concepts associated with knowledge transfer, including social capital, knowledge exploration and exploitation, and the role of key actors in knowledge transfer.

    • Network Analysis and Infographics

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      We are surrounded by networks, from online social networks to ecosystems and inter-organisational collborations. Analysing these networks is crucial to understanding their role in the socio-economic-technical environment, and to explaining physical and social phenomena. 

      We introduce you to qualitative and quantitative techniques for collection of network data and analysis of networks. You'll also learn the basic principles of generating network data-based infographics, which are capable of conveying rich and complex information with relatively simple images. Dedicated seminars will introduce you to the main software packages used to perform network analysis and to generate infographics. These include R-statistics (and the “igraph” package), Pajek, and Gephi.

      For the module, you will be asked to form groups of 3-4 people to collect data on a given phenomenon of interest. You will analyse these using network analysis, and generate an ‘infographic poster’.

Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) Masters courses at the University of Sussex

Entry requirements

A lower second-class (2.2) undergraduate honours degree or above in either a social or a natural science. Applicants with relevant professional experience will also be considered.

English language requirements

Standard level (IELTS 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each section)

Find out about other English language qualifications we accept.

English language support

Don’t have the English language level for your course? Find out more about our pre-sessional courses.

Additional information for international students

We welcome applications from all over the world. Find out about international qualifications suitable for our Masters courses.

Visas and immigration

Find out how to apply for a student visa

Fees and scholarships

How much does it cost?


Home: £10,250 per year

EU: £10,250 per year

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: £10,250 per year

Overseas: £17,000 per year

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

How can I fund my course?

Postgraduate Masters loans

Borrow up to £10,280 to contribute to your postgraduate study.

Find out more about Postgraduate Masters Loans


Our aim is to ensure that every student who wants to study with us is able to despite financial barriers, so that we continue to attract talented and unique individuals.

Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship (2017)

Open to students with a 1st class from a UK university or excellent grades from an EU university and offered a F/T place on a Sussex Masters in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship

Postgraduate Economics Scholarship for African students. (2017)

The scholarship is for a student from a sub-Saharan African country studying for either the Development Economics MSc or the Economics MSc

Application deadline:

1 July 2017

Find out more about the Postgraduate Economics Scholarship for African students.

SPRU 50th Anniversary Scholarship (2017)

Five £10,000 scholarships for outstanding applicants who have accepted a place on one of SPRU’s five MSc courses.

Application deadline:

1 July 2017

Find out more about the SPRU 50th Anniversary Scholarship

St. Kovachev Scholarship for International Marketing MSc (2017)

The scholarship is for a UK/EU student studying for the International Marketing MSc.

Application deadline:

1 July 2017

Find out more about the St. Kovachev Scholarship for International Marketing MSc

St. Kovachev Scholarship in Economics MSc or International Business Economics MSc (2017)

The scholarship is for a UK/EU student studying for the Economics MSc or International Business Economics MSc

Application deadline:

1 July 2017

Find out more about the St. Kovachev Scholarship in Economics MSc or International Business Economics MSc

Sussex Graduate Scholarship (2017)

Open to Sussex students who graduate with a first or upper second-class degree and offered a full-time place on a Sussex Masters course in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Graduate Scholarship

Sussex India Scholarships (2017)

Sussex India Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from India commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex India Scholarships

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Malaysia commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Malaysia Scholarships

Sussex MBA Scholarship (2017)

The Sussex MBA Scholarship is available on a competitive basis to UK, EU and international applicants who have been offered a place on The Sussex MBA.

Find out more about the Sussex MBA Scholarship

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships are worth £3,500 or £5,000 and are for overseas fee paying students from Nigeria commencing a Masters in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Nigeria Scholarships

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Pakistan commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Pakistan Scholarships

The Hornsey Scholarship (2017)

A £10,000 award for an outstanding student on the MSc in International Accounting and Corporate Governance.

Application deadline:

31 July 2017

Find out more about the The Hornsey Scholarship

How Masters scholarships make studying more affordable

Living costs

Find out typical living costs for studying at Sussex.


Meet the people teaching and supervising on your course.

  • Faculty profiles

    Dr Robert Byrne

    Research interests: climate policy, Developing Countries, Development studies, energy policy, Innovation for sustainability, Low carbon development, Renewables, Socio-technical transitions, Strategic niche management

    View profile

    Dr Florian Kern
    Senior Lecturer

    Research interests: Climate change, Energy, Innovation policy issues, Political economy, Politics, Science and technology policy, Sustainability transitions

    View profile

    Dr Karoline Rogge
    Lecturer In Energy Policy And Sustainability

    Research interests: climate policy, consistency, credibility, decarbonization, eco-innovation, ecological economics, energy transition, Environmental economics, eu emission trading system, Innovation studies, policy mix, Renewables, sustainability, Sustainability transitions

    View profile

    Prof Steven Sorrell
    Professor of Energy Policy

    Research interests: Energy and climate policy, Energy Efficiency, rebound effects, resource depletion

    View profile

    Prof Benjamin Sovacool
    Professor of Energy Policy

    Research interests: Climate change adaptation, Climate change mitigation, energy justice, energy policy, energy security, Energy Supply, Sustainability: Environmental

    View profile

Energy sustainability is one of the most pressing challenges facing society. Addressing it requires interdisciplinary yet critical thinking, and passionate researchers.”Benjamin Sovacool
Professor in Energy Policy (SPRU)


Graduate destinations

95% of students from the Science Policy Research Unit were in work or further study six months after graduating. Our students have gone on to jobs including:

  • coordinator, SERC (Solar Energy Research Centre) Chile
  • research policy advisor, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  • policy consultant, Technopolis Ltd.

(HESA EPI, Destinations of Post Graduate Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015

Your future career

With the growing importance of energy on political, corporate and even social agendas around the world, there is increasing demand for energy policy professionals.

All our graduates have successfully obtained employment in a variety of sectors. For example, recent MSc graduates have gained employment in:

  • international organisations (such as the OECD, UNDP, UNEP, IEA, and IREAN)
  • government departments (such as the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, Government of British Columbia, Canada)
  • local authorities (such as the Brighton & Hove Council sustainability team)
  • businesses (such as RWE npower, Ecofys, EDF, Unilever, Southern Solar, Renaissance Re, Centro de Apoio a Inovação Social-CAIS)
  • NGOs (such as the International Social Science Council, Green Jobs Alliance, People and Planet).

Other graduates have gone on to work for independent consultancies, or to study for PhDs in this area.

Working while you study

Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work

I strongly recommend this MSc to anyone passionate about understanding our energy systems, making energy services more accessible and efficient, and keeping our world safe from climate change impacts.”Akachukwu Okafor
Floreo Energy, Nigeria