MSc Environmental Governance

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Energy and the City

Course unit fact file
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
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Energy and the City seeks to explore the political and material work performed by historical and contemporary energy circulations in shaping the modern city. We aim to move beyond conventional binaries between disruption and accommodation in understanding urban energy governance, while exploring multiple sites of policy, practice and intervention.



The unit aims to:

  • Explore how energy circulations in society shape urbanization processes;
  • Interrogate some of the key social and environmental controversies that underpin contemporary practices of urban energy provision and demand;
  • Discuss how low-carbon urban energy futures are embedded in contingencies of place, scale and territory;
  • Uncover the tensions between policies aimed at promoting sustainable urban energy use on the one hand, and those aiming to address social equity, on the other;
  • Unpack racialised, gendered and ableist dimensions of urban energy provision and consumption;
  • Question deficit model-based understandings of unsustainable energy behaviours, while moving onto more nuanced and systemic explanations of urban environmental governance.


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

Intellectual skills

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

Practical skills

  • Connect theory, politics and policy in achieving just urban energy transitions;

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical thinking and reflection;
  • Motivation and self-directed learning;

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Group/team working
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

Individual essay – 3000 words (100%)

The aim of the short essay is to use theory in an analysis of topical, everyday urban energy issues. Students need to choose one of the urban energy concepts / debates / controversies discussed in the course, and use this to explore an urban energy related news item of their choice.

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided at a dedicated revision session as well as on a one-to-one basis online.

Students have an opportunity to engage in several stages of formative feedback prior to submitting the coursework, including consultation sessions, a workshop and written formative feedback on a 500 word essay outline. The feedback on their final essay will be provided within the usual turnaround time.

Recommended reading

Bouzarovski S and Haarstad H 2019 Rescaling low-carbon transformations: Towards a relational ontology Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 44 256–269

Bridge G, Barr S, Bouzarovski S, Bradshaw M, Brown E, Bulkeley H and Walker G 2018 Energy and Society: A Critical Perspective London, Routledge

Castán Broto V 2019 Urban Energy Landscapes Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Hughes S and Hoffmann M 2020 Just urban transitions: Toward a research agenda WIREs Climate Change 11 e640

Knuth S 2019 Cities and planetary repair: The problem with climate retrofitting Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 51 487–504

Munro P 2019 On, off, below and beyond the urban electrical grid the energy bricoleurs of Gulu Town Urban Geography Routledge 0 1–20

Reames T G 2016 Targeting energy justice: Exploring spatial, racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in urban residential heating energy efficiency Energy Policy 97 549–558

Rosales Carreón J and Worrell E 2018 Urban energy systems within the transition to sustainable development. A research agenda for urban metabolism Resources, Conservation and Recycling 132 258–266

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Stefan Bouzarovski Unit coordinator
Saska Petrova Unit coordinator

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