SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Energy and Development

Module Code:
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 and is a prerequisite to achieving development goals. At the same time, energy use is closely intertwined with environmental challenges such as climate change, fossil fuel resource depletion, air pollution and natural resource management (land, water, forests).

This module elaborates the key issues and concepts in the field of energy and development; it addresses policy responses such as the energy issues underlying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the United Nations’ (UN) 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, socioeconomic and technological implications, and how this links to contemporary global challenges in the fields of environmental management and sustainable development.

The module is highly topical and very timely as the role of energy for development is a fiercely debated topic that is receiving increasing attention due to climate change, natural resource scarcity, prevailing global poverty and policy responses to these issues at the international, regional and national level.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • 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, use and supply 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 such as the energy issues addressed in the SDGs and the UN’s target of universal energy access (SE4All).

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 energy use, demand, supply and energy systems in different countries and different contexts and energy transitions from traditional biomass to fossil fuels to low carbon energy. The units also include a critical discussion of 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 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. Finally, methods of financing universal energy access and low carbon energy transitions are considered.
  • Part 3 presents some policy responses to energy poverty and critically discusses how they can be implemented in practice (Unit 10).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules