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. Click here for a one-page overview of the graduate certificate program.


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:


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.

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.

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 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 Adam Reed.

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Frequently Asked Questions

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


Is this program open to undergraduates?
No. There is a separate certificate program intended for undergraduates - Click here.

Is the graduate certificate program open to non-students?
No, however we offer a number of other programs to non-students, including a professional certificate in renewable energy. Click here

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. J.D. students wishing to participate in this certificate program should be aware that no more than six of the nine core certificate class credits can count towards graduation, so participation in this program will require them to take more than the 89 credits normally required for the J.D. degree. Interested J.D. students should consult with law school advisor William Boyd and the law school registrar for more details.

Are there any course prerequisites for the program?
No. The first core course, ENST 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?

I would like to nominate a course for inclusion on the list of qualifying electives. How do I do that?
Send an email to  This email 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.


For Further Information

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