Graduate Consortium on Energy and Environment

The HUCE Graduate Consortium on Energy and Environment is currently engaged in a review to consider how to better meet the goals of the program and the evolving needs of our audience. If you have any questions or considerations regarding the program or application process please contact Jim Clem at or 617.496.5458.

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The Harvard Graduate Consortium on Energy and Environment fosters a community of graduate students who are well versed in the broad, interconnected issues of energy and environment while maintaining their focus in their primary discipline. Through debate and dialogue in coursework and seminars, students are able to identify the obstacles, highlight the opportunities, and define the discussion of an energy strategy for the 21st century and beyond. To date, over 180 students have participated in the program.

Program Description

The Consortium is open to doctoral and master's students at Harvard who can demonstrate that participation in the Consortium will advance the goals of their research experience. Students representing a broad range of disciplines in the natural and social sciences are encouraged to participate in the Consortium, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of energy and the environment in contemporary society.  Doctoral students are required to have completed at least one year in their home department or school before applying to the program – master’s students are encouraged to wait until the end of their first year of studies before applying to the program.

Once admitted to the Consortium, students are required to take two courses - one policy course, and one science course - designed to give them an introduction to several critical aspects of energy and environmental issues. Students are also required to participate in a weekly reading and discussion seminar, led by faculty members from around the university, which provides an overview of the energy field from a wide range of perspectives. Doctoral students in the program may be eligible to apply for graduate fellowship support for their participation, and up to $1,000 towards attending relevant conferences or other appropriate professional activities during their time in the program. Space in the program may be limited, and priority is given to doctoral students. 


Students are required to take two energy / environmental courses for the Consortium - one policy course, and one science course. Some courses have limited enrollment, and most courses have academic prerequisites - students should consider the prerequisites for each course when considering their eligibility and planning their course of study for the program. Students can propose alternatives to the courses listed below, but in keeping with the intent of the Consortium to increase students' breadth of understanding about energy and environmental issues, students are expected to choose courses that they would not normally take for their degree.

Students should submit a plan for completing their coursework as indicated in the application materials, and are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor when considering their proposed schedule. 

Policy Courses

1)  The Climate-Energy Challenge (IGA-411, Fall semester, John Holdren and Henry Lee)

Examines the character and magnitude of the global energy challenge and the policy choices germane to meeting it, introducing and applying relevant concepts from environmental science, energy-technology assessment, policy design, and domestic and global politics

Prerequisites: No specific prerequisites, but students without any background in economics and earth science will likely struggle and need to participate in a system of review sessions.

2)  Energy Policy Analysis (API-164, Spring semester, Joseph Aldy)

Provides an overview of energy policy issues with an emphasis on the analysis necessary to frame, design, and evaluate policy remedies to energy problems.

Prerequisites: Multivariate calculus

3)  Electricity Market Design (API-166, Fall semester, Bill Hogan)

Topics in electricity market design starting from the foundations of coordination for competition. Infrastructure investment, Resource Adequacy, Pricing Models, Cost Allocation, Energy Trading, Forward Hedging, Market Manipulation, Distribution Regulation, and Policy for Clean Energy Innovation. Assumes some knowledge about the engineering, economics, and regulation of the power sector.

Prerequisites: API-102, IGA-410 or equivalent; permission of instructor

4)  The Geopolitics of Energy (IGA-412, Fall semester, Meghan O'Sullivan)

The Geopolitics of Energy examines the intersection between international security, politics, and energy, including the exploration of how countries shape their grand strategies to meet their energy needs, how such actions have implications for other countries and global politics, and how new technologies and innovations are changing patterns of trades and could shape new alliances. The course also considers the consequences of a successful shift away from petroleum-based economies to anticipate how a new energy order will alter global politics in fundamental ways.

Prerequisites: None; permission of instructor

Science Courses

1) Climate and Climate Engineering (ESE 136) - David Keith

An introduction to the physics that determine our planet’s climate motivated by concerns about human-driven climate change. From highly-simplified models of radiation and convection in a column to state-of-the-art models of the general circulation, the course provides a hands-on introduction to modeling tools as a basis for understanding predictions of climate change and assessing their uncertainty. Solar geoengineering, the possibility of deliberate large-scale intervention in the climate, is covered as a potentially important new application of atmospheric science and as a tool to motivate analysis of aerosol radiative forcing, feedbacks, and uncertainty.

Prerequsites: One freshman-level math or applied math course, one freshman-level science course, and physics at either the freshman or high-school level; or, permission of instructor.

NOTE – the ESE 136 course is only an option for Consortium students who are NOT in the natural or physical sciences, or engineering.

 All other students are expected to choose one of the following three science course options and to select a course that they would not normally take for their degree requirements or plan of study.

2)  Physics of Climate (E-PSCI 208) – Zhiming Kuang

Overview of the basic features of the climate system (global energy balance, atmospheric general circulation, ocean circulation, and climate variability) and the underlying physical processes.

Prerequisites: Applied Mathematics 105 (may be taken concurrently); Physics 15 or Physical Sciences 12a,b; or permission of the instructor.

3)  Climate Dynamics (E-PSCI 231) – Eli Tziperman

The course covers climate dynamics and climate variability phenomena and mechanisms and provides hands-on experience running and analyzing climate models, as well as using dynamical system theory tools. Among the subjects covered: energy balance and greenhouse effect, El Nino, thermohaline circulation, abrupt climate change, millennial variability (DO and Heinrich events), glacial-interglacial cycles, the ocean carbonate system and CO2 changes, warm past and future climates, and more.

Prerequisites: Background in geophysical fluid dynamics or permission of instructor.

4)  Energy Technology (ES 231, letter-graded only) or Survey of Energy Technology (ES 229, Pass/Fail only) (Spring semester, Mike Aziz)

Assesses current and anticipated future technologies for energy generation, interconversion, storage, and end usage, including both current and projected world energy use. Two related courses are offered: one taken for a letter grade only, and a companion course with the same content, requirements, and class meetings that is taken pass/fail only.

Prerequisites: A semester of college-level Newtonian mechanics, a semester of single-variable calculus, and chemistry at the level of a good secondary school course; permission of instructor

Reading/Discussion Seminar

An essential part of the Consortium experience is a weekly reading and discussion seminar that provides students with the opportunity to explore current topics in the field through interactions with faculty and their peers. A different Harvard faculty member leads each seminar based on their research interests in energy and the environment, including a presentation and group discussion based on several selected readings.

Seminars are held every week during the Fall and Spring semesters from 12-1:30 pm at the Center for the Environment. A list of the most recent seminar speakers and topics can be found here.