Home Education Graduate Energy Certificate Program

"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

Paul Komor, Energy Education Director and Lecturer in Environmental Studies, directs 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:

The complete list of participating faculty:

Program Requirements

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:

  • An understanding of energy science 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.

ENER 5000 (ENVS 5100) 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 Keith Stockton.

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

ENER 5001 (ENVS 5820) Renewable Energy Policy
Plentiful renewable energy resources and working technologies are necessary but not sufficient to ensure widespread use. This course uses a mix of lectures, guest speakers, discussions, mock debates, and student presentations to tease apart the complex process through which renewable technologies move from niche markets to widespread use. Questions this class addresses include: What policy tools are available to promote renewables, and how well do they work? What does it mean for a policy to be 'successful'? Are subsidies for renewables, such as the wind production tax credit, appropriate? What role can and should renewables play in carbon markets? Taught by Paul Komor.

ENER 5002 (BADM 6930) Commercializing Sustainable Energy Technologies
Addresses the opportunities and problems of commercializing new renewable energy technologies.  Focuses on energy markets, opportunity identification, life cycle analysis, policy economics, project financing, and economic analysis as they relate to bringing renewable energy technologies to market. Taught by Steve Lawrence.

Elective Courses

Students must take 9 credits of qualifying electives. Courses listed at the Energy Initiative course listing web site 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

ENVS 5930, "Internship," can also count as an elective. Students are placed with an energy-related organization or practitioner (e.g., a private company, a state or local government agency, a non-profit), and are required to complete a project for that organization. Any participating faculty can act as an Internship advisor.

At least 3 of the 9 elective credits must 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, 2010, and the deadline for all application materials is November 15, 2010 . Decisions are made by December 1, 2010. Applicants are asked to submit the following:

All materials should be submitted electronically, and should be emailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Unofficial copies are acceptable. Attach the required materials to your email as PDFs.

The core courses are intended to be taken in sequence. However, if you think you already know much of the material covered in the course, you can petition to be excused from that course requirement. Send a letter to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it explaining why you should not have to take ENER 5000.

Frequently Asked Question

Does successful completion of the certificate program show up on my official CU-Boulder transcript?


Is this program open to undergraduates?
There is a separate certificate program intended for undergraduates - click here.

No.  CU-Boulder does however offer other various energy courses and workshops for non-students.  See for example the Sustainable Practices offerings from the Continuing Education office (link:  http://conted.colorado.edu/) and the RETool workshops (linkto: http://leeds.colorado.edu/Deming/interior.aspx?id=7390) offered by RASEI and the Deming Center at the Leeds School of Business

Can a specific course be used to satisfy the certificate program requirements and my home department/program requirements - at the same time?
Probably. The certificate program allows for this. However, you should check with your home department/program to ensure that they allow this.

I'm planning to enroll at CU-Boulder in the fall. Can I apply to the program before I actually start my graduate studies?
Yes. If you have been accepted to CU-Boulder for graduate studies, and are planning to enroll, you may apply. See the How To Apply section for details on how to do so.

I'm in the Engineering/Law/Business/etc. graduate program at CU-Boulder. Can I apply for the program?
Yes. All CU-Boulder graduate students are eligible for this program.

Are there any course prerequisites for the program?
No. The first core course, ENER 5000, provides basic energy knowledge.

I have already taken a core course and/or qualifying elective. Can I count that already-completed course towards the program requirements?

For Further Information

Send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it 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.

Do you have a specific question that’s not answered in the FAQ section? If so, send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . We'll get back to you.