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EME 803 - Applied Energy Policy

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


This course provides students with an in-depth exploration of energy policy development, implementation, and assessment at multiple governmental and corporate scales, with emphasis on energy market impacts and environmental implications.

EME 803 is structured to provide students with the expertise necessary to identify energy policy needs, argue for policy alternatives, and evaluate energy policy. Emphasis on tailoring energy policy to meet not just economic goals but, also environmental and social goals creates a global perspective from which students learn to approach energy policy challenges. Students will read across the energy policy literature, via the journal Energy Policy, and become highly proficient in evaluating and composing literature reviews. Because the demand for highly analytical individuals is so great among energy professionals, this course will force students to think critically about these issues and really explore the finer nuances of economic and environmental implications of energy policy language. Asking students to evaluate the interplay between policy decisions, environmental outcomes, and energy markets will require students to become conversant in diverse, industry-relevant topics that will prepare them for careers in management surrounding issues of sustainability and energy resources.


At the successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • From the discussions conducted on Yellowdig, you will develop your abilities to: critically assess and discuss energy policy literature, have civil discourse on politically controversial topics concerning energy and its applications; learn from and inform your peers on topics and concepts of collective interest; and, collaborate on surveying a literature with your peers.
  • From the literature review assignments, you will improve your capacities to: determine the legitimacy of things you read, data you see, and conclusions drawn from research; complete a thorough academic literature search and literature review for a given energy policy topic; and, evaluate across scholarly articles for common themes, complementary findings, and ongoing disagreements within fields of study in energy policy. 

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.

  • Yellowdig discussion platform (fee required)


This course is available to graduate students in the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems MPS.


What I Expect of You

Time:  On average, most students spend eight to ten hours per week working on course assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your prior experience with the energy topics we're covering and your familiarity with online classes.

Effort:  I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. This is no different from a traditional face-to-face class in that how much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to engage both your classmates and me throughout the course.  Each module, you'll be tasked with reading assignments which form the cornerstone of our discussion-based assignments on Yellowdig. You will be using articles drawn only from the journal Energy Policy. As graduate students at Penn State, it's imperative you become comfortable with how to navigate professional research articles in journals. 

What You Can Expect of Me

Time: I'll be working to ensure that you receive your feedback in a timely manner so that we can apply it to the improvement of future submissions. You can expect me to grade and provide you feedback no later than one week after an assignment has been submitted.

Effort: I'll be doing my best to give you thorough, substantive, and encouraging feedback on all of your assignments. Once you get feedback from me, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns. I want us to work together throughout the semester to build your understanding of the course content.

Major Assignments

This course will rely upon two categories of assessment to evaluate student learning.

  • 8 Bi-weekly Discussion Activities (50%)
  • 5 out of 7 Literature Reviews (50%)

Discussion Activities

So, imagine us as a class all standing in the middle of a plateau, where that plateau represents just about everything we currently know about a particular discipline or set of issues, like Energy Policy. Now, imagine us starting to all walk in different directions out from the middle of that plateau to find the edges... places where the plateau either drops off abruptly or runs us into a fence that keeps us from seeing or knowing more about things like the future of Energy Policy. Now, imagine us all coming back to the center to describe to each other the cliffs and fences that we individually encountered on our trek to find the limits of the plateau.

Getting together and describing the limits that we encountered to each other is precisely the point of why discussions are so important in a good graduate seminar. Such an opportunity allows us to both collectively map the territory of the plateau as well as find the limits and possible directions for expanding the territory of the plateau. In this case, the plateau is everything about Energy Policy, the fences are barriers to further integration of Energy Policy to other disciplines, and the cliffs are where knowledge needs to be further built out, researched, discovered, or otherwise defined. The main point here is that doing this collaboratively and together, where we teach each other, allows us to map out these epistemic spaces and their limits in a manner that saves us, as individual inquirers, a lot of time and energy. (While a whole other matter, this is essentially how we develop objective clusters within fields of knowledge.)

Still, you may be asking yourself... why are discussions so important that they count for half of our grade in this course? Because, I want you to really value what you can teach each other here, both about the existing state of knowledge about Energy Policy and where it still needs to go. 

Literature Reviews

A literature review is a section of a research paper that clearly defines the context of the topic of the research, provides an evaluation of the research that has already been conducted on the topic, primary and secondary findings across the previous research, and the questions that still remain that previous research has either not addressed or findings that have not been able to be agreed upon across the research.

Why is learning how to write literature reviews important to professionals and not just academics? Because one of the main objectives of the RESS Program is to teach you how to manage expertise in renewable energy and sustainability. Much of the information that you are going to encounter is going to come from technical and academic journals (primary sources) or come from journalists who have read and summarized those technical and academic reports (secondary sources). For your work in the modules, you will only be working with primary sources and will be writing your own literature reviews. The main objectives of all of this are 1) to help you practice reviewing a body of technical knowledge thoroughly and quickly, and, 2) to be able to quickly tell the difference between plausible arguments and bullshit, i.e. you're going to build up your bullshit detecting skills.

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
11Energy PolicyDiscussion
12Energy PolicyLiterature Review
23Primary Energy ResourcesDiscussion
24Primary Energy ResourcesLiterature Review
35Technological ChangeDiscussion
36Technological ChangeLiterature Review
47Energy and SocietyDiscussion
48Energy and SocietyLiterature Review
59Energy and the EnvironmentDiscussion
510Energy and the EnvironmentLiterature Review
611Energy-Use and End-Use TechnologiesDiscussion
612Energy-Use and End-Use TechnologiesLiterature Review
713Energy Markets, Pricing, Investment, Financing, and Other Economic IssuesDiscussion
714Energy Markets, Pricing, Investment, Financing, and Other Economic IssuesLiterature Review
815Closing Arguments and ReflectionsFinal Discussion Activity and Reflection