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MSc Environmental Governance

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Energy, Society and Space

Unit code GEOG70201
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Energy, Society and Space is based on the premise that energy systems have become a core part of modern societies, since they heavily influence the location and dynamics of human economic and social activities. We will critically examine the contingent power relations that emerge from the centrality of fossil fuels to the production and reproduction of capitalist social relations, while investigating the extent to which a transition to ‘alternative’ energies necessarily accompany transformations in the social and political contingencies of capitalism. This course unit follows on from first- and second-year courses that have examined the links between spatial formations, on the one hand, and global social, economic, environmental or urban trends, on the other. We will apply some of the questions opened in such courses to the geographies of sustainability, energy flows, society, space and capitalism. 


  • Explore the manner in which past and present energy flows in society have been embedded in a wide range of spatial formations and relations;
  • Question established binaries between energy production and consumption practices, and large vs. small-scale forms of energy supply;
  • Investigate some of the key scientific and political controversies associated with contemporary patterns of energy provision and demand;
  • Uncover the tensions between policies aimed at promoting sustainable energy use on the one hand, and those aiming to address social equity, on the other;
  • Highlight the role of space and place in the movement towards a ‘greener’ energy future;
  • Challenge the suggestion that sustainable energy policies can be delivered solely via a combination of technical and behavioural measures. 




Preliminary Course Structure

·         WEEK 1: Energy flows and debates: key concepts

·         WEEK 2: Energy transitions

·         WEEK 3: Geographies of energy consumption

·         WEEK 4: Energy security and geopolitics

·         WEEK 5: Community, energy and justice

·         WEEK 6: Reading week

·         WEEK 7: Fuel poverty and energy vulnerability

·         WEEK 8: Energy efficiency vs. justice: Grenfell Tower fire

·         WEEK 9: Reading week

·         WEEK 10: Contested energy landscapes: myths, perceptions, realities

·         WEEK 11: Contested geographies of fuelwood exploitation

·         WEEK 12: Retrofitting the city

Teaching and learning methods

The unit is delivered through online lectures, seminars, students’ readings of key texts and other types of materials such as videos. By using a range of teaching methods, we aim to provide inclusive spaces where knowledge is co-produced by teachers and learners. 

Knowledge and understanding

Understand and being able to outline the reasons, character and consequences of the main social, environmental and political issues arising from the production and consumption of energy across the world; 

Intellectual skills

Critical analyse and demonstrate how energy geographies can inform the relations between capitalism and global energy systems and practices; Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of different theories and explanations; Relate theoretical arguments with empirical evidence; 

Practical skills

  • Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of different theories and explanations;
  • Connect theory, politics and policy; 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During the course unit, students will be encouraged to develop:

·           Problem-solving and enquiry-based learning skills;

·           Critical thinking and reflection;

·           Motivation and self-directed learning;

·           An ability to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of different theories and explanations;

·           An ability to relate theoretical arguments with empirical evidence;

·           An ability to connect theory, politics and policy;

·           An awareness and application of the role of the student as a researcher, learning partner, university ambassador, local/global citizen, and agent of societal change.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Students have an opportunity to engage in several stages of formative feedback prior to submitting the coursework, including online consultation sessions, 2 workshops and written formative feedback on their 300 word essay outlines. The feedback on their final essay is provided within the usual turnaround time. 

Recommended reading

There is no overall reading list for the course. Each week there are a small number of required readings, mostly academic journal articles. A study guide is provided for each lecture with recommended readings included. You will also been encouraged and supported to discover other, supplementary academic readings for the particular themes on the course. 
Key journals: Energy Research and Social Science, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Environment and Planning A, Transactions of the IBG, Geoforum, Antipode 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 5
Independent study hours
Independent study 125

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Saska Petrova Unit coordinator

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