The Energy Policy specialist option aims to produce graduates capable of combining the technical, environmental, economic, legal and policy aspects of energy use and supply in tackling energy-related problems. Students from a wide range of backgrounds are given a broad understanding of the role of energy in the global and local economy, and the range of human and environmental impacts associated with energy systems.  

The course aims to foster a range of skills, incorporating an in depth appreciation of technical subjects and quantitative methods with a balanced approach to policy analysis and communication. The ability to produce clear, critical and authoritative analysis of technical, economic and policy issues is the key aim, making graduates sought-after energy analysts, consultants and campaigners in the private and public sectors.

Course details

Aims and objectives

Energy plays a key role in most of the world’s environmental problems, from the global issue of climate change, through regional damage caused by acid rain, to poor local air quality. Energy markets throughout the world are evolving rapidly, with privatisation, competition, market structure and regulation all prominent issues in the UK, Europe and overseas. Resource depletion of fossil fuels, the role of renewable energy and social inequities such as fuel poverty are central issues for sustainable development. The influence of energy issues on international politics and security has come into sharp focus with conflicts affecting the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. The range of challenges for energy policy is diverse and exciting.

 Option Aims 

  • To build on the foundations of the core course, by developing specialist knowledge of the energy field within a more general environmental framework
  • To inform and guide the choice of project for the third term
  • To provide students from natural science, engineering, social science and other backgrounds with a broad understanding of the role of energy in the global and local economy, and of the range of economic, human and environmental impacts associated with energy systems.
  • To develop a broad range of skills, incorporating an in depth appreciation of technical subjects and quantitative methods with a balanced approach to policy analysis and communication.
  • To produce graduates capable of combining the technical, economic and policy aspects of energy, so that they can draw conclusions of strategic significance in energy areas relating to corporate, government or non-government activity.

Option Objectives

At the conclusion of the course, students should be:

  • capable of developing policy analyses and recommendations in a broad range of areas across the energy sector
  • able to understand the legislative and regulatory frameworks which surround energy markets
  • able to apply their knowledge appropriately to energy issues in both developed and developing countries
  • able to conduct cost-benefit analyses of energy projects at different scales, and from different perspectives
  • capable of constructing simple energy models, and able to appreciate the possibilities and limitations of the modelling process
  • able to write clear, critical and authoritative reports, both on technical subjects and on policy issues
  • able confidently to present results orally, at a level appropriate to their audience

Option content

The option is broadly divided into a series of modules: Policy, Assessment & Law; Energy Economics & Markets; Energy Use; Fossil Fuels & Nuclear Power; Renewable Energy; Energy & Development; Transport Energy; Energy Modelling. Given the nature of the MSc, some emphasis is placed on the future role of 'clean' and/or low carbon options, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy, but the intention is to equip graduates with a working knowledge of the full extent of the energy sector.

Teaching takes place through a mixture of lectures and seminars, workshops covering professional skills, analytical techniques and modelling methods, and small group project work. Short visits are made to a number of key energy facilities, and a week long fieldtrip is used to visit a wide range of renewable energy facilities. The group projects also foster team working, report writing and oral presentation skills, which are essential for many jobs.

The Option is taught by a wide range of specialists from both within and outside Imperial College: the current year has inputs from 29 people, including 14 external experts. External contributors include well-known figures from government, industry, specialist consultancies and NGOs (for example, British Petroleum, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Intermediate Technology Development Group).

The Option is associated with a highly successful research centre within the Department. The Imperial College Centre for Energy Policy and Technology (ICEPT), brings together energy related research and expertise from the full range of the College's science and technology departments with staff working in technology assessment, economics and policy. The Centre has strong links with industry, and is emerging as the key policy research and advisory group in the clean and low carbon energy field. The Centre's activities have tremendous spin-off benefits for the Option.

Track record and careers

The Energy Policy Option has been running for more than 20 years. Graduates can therefore be found throughout all levels of industry, government, international agencies, consultancy and NGOs. In specialist energy/environment consultancies it is not uncommon to find that a majority of the staff are Option graduates, ranging from the Director to the new junior consultant. The network of graduates is fostered through regular reunion dinners, and is used to great success in helping current students in their thesis projects and in finding employment - of benefit to both students and employers alike.

The employment market in the energy sector is extremely buoyant, mirroring for example the pace of change in energy markets worldwide and the range of environmental issues challenging the sector. One way in which the Option has been particularly successful in helping graduates find exciting jobs is through linkages made with companies and other agencies through the thesis projects. Through the graduate network and contacts of the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology, the majority of Option students find external collaborators and/or funders for their projects. Such a linkage gives student and potential employer up to five months of working together on the thesis, and in many cases results in a job offer.

Thesis collaborators

Recent examples of thesis collaborators include:

  • BP
  • Shell Renewables
  • Rolls Royce
  • Nokia
  • the Energy Saving Trust
  • Energy for Sustainable Development
  • Tata Energy Research Institute, India
  • Students have travelled in recent years on thesis fieldwork to Rodrigues (near Mauritius), Sri Lanka, Zambia, Nepal, Jordan, Colombia, the Ukraine and many countries within Europe.

"I completed the Energy Policy option in 2004. I have found it to be an invaluable experience, in terms of the material learned but also contacts and friends made. I had ten years management consulting experience before doing the MSc and since completing it I've consulted almost exclusively in the clean tech and carbon space. I consult on policy development for government and government agencies and on investment strategy and due diligence for private equity and venture capital. I work as an independent management consultant."
Mark Anderson (Energy, 2004) now working as independent management consultant