International aspects of the energy transition are in the focus of this course. Renewables and other new energy technologies such as hydrogen or CCS increasingly determine politics and governance at the international level. Setting the right framework conditions here may contribute to a swift, just and peaceful transition. However, at the same time, the energy transition may create new imbalances in wealth and power. Starting with theoretical concepts such as energy security and interdependence, this course addresses the past and potential future of the energy transition. The discussion covers different countries, actors and geographical areas, for example the influence of energy exporters such as Norway, the potential of rising nations like China, and policies of blocs such as the European Union. By studying these cases from different theoretical angles, the course aims at developing a better understanding of the ‘geopolitics of the energy transition’. Beyond bilateral relations, this includes international agreements such as the Paris Agreement, organisations (e.g. the IEA and IRENA) and diplomatic initiatives (e.g. the International Solar Alliance).
Course description for study year 2021-2022. Please note that changes may occur.
Semester tution start
Number of semesters
Language of instruction
Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Media and Social Sciences
After completing the course, the students will have the following knowledge, skills and competencies:
In terms of knowledge, students will have insights into the following areas:
geopolitics and international relations theory
the role of energy in international politics
energy security concepts
energy politics and policies in different geographical areas
the fragmented system of global energy governance
the impact of renewables on the geopolitics of energy
controversies related to the on-going energy transition
concepts and theories related to the subject of the course
In terms of skills, students should be able to achieve the following:
description of different cases with an importance to the geopolitics of energy
description of theoretical concepts related to the geopolitics of energy, e.g. energy security
application of a (number of) perspective(s) to a given case
addressing various challenges with regard to global energy governance
understanding of international negotiations and governance
assessing the links between the geopolitics of energy the energy transition
critically assessing and evaluating different energy- related policy measures
demonstrating an understanding of the range and substance of political and policy issues related to energy politics and energy security concerns
In terms of general competencies, students should be capable of:
formulating and expressing knowledge about problems associated with today’s system of energy governance
formulating and communicating challenges associated with bringing energy systems in alignment with ecological limits
processing quantitative as well as qualitative data
making effective written and oral presentations
showing a good capacity for independent learning
Energy has been described as the universal currency of our planet (Vaclav Smil). Its availability and conversion represents a fundamental prerequisite of economic processes. Given the relatively high energy density of fossil fuels, the use of carbon-based primary energy greatly expanded the economy of those countries that possessed the technologies necessary for its extraction and conversion. By transitioning from energies with relatively low energy densities (e.g. coal) to such with an ever higher energy density (e.g. oil), the expansion of the economy could be maintained for decades. Towards its later stages, this process culminated in the introduction of nuclear energy, which contemporaries interpreted as the dawn of a world of unlimited productivity and wealth. However, the rapid growth that came with the new forms of energy soon revealed its downsides. Not only did the environmental impact of human activity grow, the switch to fossil fuels and later nuclear energy also saw new and intensified power struggles between nations. However, if well governed, energy systems and shared access to energy can also lead to greater political alignment between individual nations.
With a focus on policies and actions to secure energy supply, this course discusses the structure of today’s international system, and analyses the role of energy in this context - its use, access to and control over. This includes different geographical areas (e.g. Europe and Asia), forms of energy (e.g. oil and electricity), and theories such as energy security, neorealism and neoliberalism. Point of departure is the switch to fossil fuels and its effect on power relations between countries. Later, the course discusses the global transition to renewables and how it alters the relations between states and power blocs. The course will discuss the implications of the shift to renewables for relations between countries, and how international relations determine the outcome of the energy transition. Being frontrunners of this latest energy transition, Europe and China stand in the focus of this part of the course. Beyond renewables, the course also includes new energy technologies such as hydrogen, and topics directly linked to energy, for example CCS. Diplomacy, the negotiation of international agreements, and the institutional structures on the international level represent important elements of the course.
Required prerequisite knowledge
Form of assessment
A - F
Three short texts (ca. 500 words each) have to be submitted throughout the semester; dates will be announced at the beginning of the course.