SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Energy and Development (30 credits)

30 credits

This module explores the main issues around energy and development. As 1.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity and 2.7 billion people rely on traditional biomass for basic needs such as cooking and heating (World Bank, 2014), access to energy is a key development issue as recognised by the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, energy use is closely intertwined with environmental challenges such as climate change, fossil fuel resource depletion and air pollution.

This module elaborates the key issues and concepts in the field of energy and development; it addresses policy responses such as the energy issues goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN’s target of universal energy access. The module further outlines various options for delivering energy access (both low carbon and fossil fuel-based), and their environmental, socio-economic and technological implications and how this links to contemporary global challenges in the fields of climate change, environmental management and sustainable development.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Understand the links and recognise inter-dependencies between energy and development, as well as between energy and poverty.
  • Critically discuss the key issues and concepts in the field of energy and development from a theoretical and practical perspective.
  • Demonstrate understanding of how energy production and energy use contribute to environmental challenges such as global climate change, peak oil, natural resource depletion and air pollution.
  • Critically discuss various options for delivering energy access (both low carbon and fossil fuel-based), and their environmental, socio-economic and technological implications.
  • Be familiar with and interpret national and international policy responses to energy poverty.


Students are advised to dedicate 15 - 20 hours study time per week for this module.

Scope and syllabus

The module is divided into three parts:

Part 1 introduces the linkages between energy and development, as well as providing a brief overview of the environmental implications of energy use (unit 1). In units 2-4 key issues and concepts of energy and development are explored, such as assessing energy use, demand, supply and systems in different countries and different contexts and critically discussing concepts such as the energy ladder, fuel switching and the Environmental Kuznets Curve in theory and practice.

Part 2 explores the social, environmental, economic and technological implications of energy and development (units 5-9). This part looks in detail at the energy-poverty-climate nexus, the role of reducing energy poverty and increasing energy access for the SDGs and the UN’s target of universal energy access, the link between energy use and climate change, technological advances in energy technology and issues of technology transfer and finally how to finance universal energy access and low carbon energy transitions.

Part 3 presents some policy responses to energy poverty and critically discusses how they can be implemented in practice (unit 10).

  1. Energy, poverty and development: the challenges
  2. Energy use and energy systems in different countries and contexts
  3. Energy transitions: From traditional biomass to fossil fuels to renewable energy
  4. Sectoral energy needs and household energy
  5. Concepts of energy and development
  6. The health implications of energy use
  7. The social implications of energy use
  8. Energy use and climate change
  9. Natural resource depletion and air pollution
  10. The energy-poverty-climate nexus
  11. Technological advances: fossil fuels
  12. Technological advances: energy efficiency and low carbon energy
  13. The economics of energy supply and universal energy access
  14. Financing a low carbon energy transition
  15. Policy responses to energy poverty

Method of assessment

This module is assessed by:

  • a 500-word commentary and critical discussion on a key reading, and assessment of the commentaries of two other students (10%)
  • a 3000-word examined assignment (EA), with an element of online interaction and discussion, worth 40%
  • a two-hour written examination worth 50%.

Since the EA is an element of the formal examination process, please note the following:

  • The EA questions and submission date will be available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
  • The EA is submitted by uploading it to the VLE.
  • The EA is marked by the module tutor and students will receive a percentage mark and feedback.
  • Answers submitted must be entirely the student’s own work and not a product of collaboration.
  • Plagiarism is a breach of regulations. To ensure compliance with the specific University of London regulations, all students are advised to read the guidelines on referencing the work of other people. For more detailed information, see the FAQ on the VLE.

Suggested reading

Goldemberg, J. and Lucon, O., 2009. Energy, Environment and Development. 2nd edition. Earthscan, Routledge, Oxon.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules