"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 undergraduate 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 economics; coupled with electives on energy and environment, journalism, ethics, 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 undergraduate certificate program is intended to supplement, not replace, undergraduate students' degree programs. Graduates from this certificate program—regardless of their undergraduate major—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:
- William Boyd, Law
- Paul Komor, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute
- Michael Hannigan, Mechanical Engineering
- Steve Lawrence, Leeds School of Business
Keith Stockton, Leeds School of Business
- Tom Yulsman, Journalism
In order to earn the certificate, students must apply to and be accepted into the program. 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:
- The first required course (ENVS/PHYS 3070) provides an understanding of energy science and technology: resources, units of measurement, physical principles and limits, conversion technologies, and environmental impacts.
- The second required course (ENVS 3621) provides an understanding of energy politics, policy, and economics: 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.
- The third required course (RSEI 4150) is a projects course, in which students’ energy knowledge is applied to a specific energy challenge or problem.
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.
Students must take the three courses listed below, and achieve a grade of C or better in all three courses.
Energy and the Environment. Contemporary issues in energy consumption and its environmental impact, including fossil fuel use and depletion; nuclear energy and waste disposal; solar, wind, hydroelectric, and other renewable sources; home heating; energy storage; fuel cells; and alternative transportation vehicles. Included are some basic physical concepts and principles that often constrain choices. No background in physics is required. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: natural science. Offered Fall and Spring semesters.
NOTE: ECEN 1500 'Sustainable Energy' can also be substituted for ENVS/PHYS 3070
Energy Policy and Society. Examines how society makes decisions about energy, and how these decisions affect the environment and the economy. Uses tools from policy analysis, economics, and other disciplines to build an in-depth understanding of energy’s role in U.S. contemporary society. Offered Spring semester.
RSEI 4150 Energy Project
This projects course will apply students’ energy knowledge to a particular problem or issue. The specific problem would vary by semester and instructor, however example problems include: Developing a plan for CU to meet its carbon neutrality goals, assessing Boulder’s potential for increased energy efficiency, analyzing options for Colorado to increase its use of renewable energy, and developing recommendations for Colorado’s role in the Western Climate Initiative. Students will be expected to develop a policy-relevant class final report/plan, and present it to decision-makers.
Students must take 9 credits of qualifying electives. Any of the energy courses listed at the RASEI web site can count as an elective. In addition, the following courses can also count as electives:
ATOC 3500 Air Chemistry and Pollution
ATOC 4800 Policy and Climate
BADM 4820 Business Opportunities in a Resource Constrained World
ENVS 3100 Sustainability Consulting
GEEN 3300 Sustainability and Ethics
MGMT 4080 Sustainable Operations
This list will be modified when new energy-relevant courses are offered. Existing courses can be nominated for this list as well – see the FAQ section below.
How To Apply
Only currently enrolled CU-Boulder undergraduate students are eligible for the program (although the core courses are open to all students). This includes part-time students, but is limited to students who are in an undergraduate degree program. Students in joint undergraduate/graduate degree programs are not eligible, but should instead consider the graduate energy certificate program.
Applications to the program are accepted starting February 1, with all applications and application materials due by March 1. Admissions decisions are made by April 1. Acceptance will be based on the qualifications of the student, as well as the importance of fostering a diversity of disciplinary representation within the program.
Applicants need to submit the following:
A current CU-Boulder transcript.
A one-page statement of purpose: Why do you want to enroll in this program?
Frequently Asked Questions
Does successful completion of the certificate program show up on my official CU-Boulder transcript?
Is this program open to non-students/working professionals/CU-Boulder staff/etc.?
We offer a Professional Certificate in Renewable Energy to non-students.
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 in the Engineering/Music/Business/etc. program at CU-Boulder. Can I apply for the program?
Yes. All CU-Boulder undergraduate students are eligible for this program.
Are there any course prerequisites for the program?
No. The first core course, ENVS/PHYS 3070, provides basic energy knowledge.
I would like to nominate a course for inclusion on the list of qualifying electives. How do I do that?
Do you have a specific question that’s not answered in the FAQ section?