SUM4504 – International Political Economy of Energy

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International Political Economy of Energy (IPE) is a field of study that relates broadly to the interactions of economic and political issues that transcend the purview of a single nation-state. It draws from various disciplines, such as political science, economics, geography, sociology and anthropology. After decades of dominance of hydrocarbons as the main sources of energy for the global economy, there are rising pressures from scientists, social movements, governments and private actors to move away from fossil fuel dependence to other sources of energy. This push does not come without costs, heated debates and, as political economists emphasize, winners and losers. The goal of this course is to engage with these debates as the dominance of hydrocarbons as main sources of energy is increasingly questioned.

This graduate-level seminar course focuses on current issues of IPE of Energy. In this course, students will discuss recent literature on relevant issues of IPE of Energy, focusing on the governance of energy markets, energy transition and the perils of fossil fuel dependence. While the focus of this seminar is on transnational or global issues, students will also engage with debates related to domestic energy matrixes, resource curse theories and comparative transitions. 

Learning outcome

The course is based on cutting-edge recent research published in top international outlets, allowing students to grasp and engage with the most pressing and current questions in IPE of Energy. The seminar will narrow particularly on the governance of energy markets, energy transitions and the links between energy, the environment and development.

Through this course, students will:

  • Be able to analyze and critically scrutinize the actors, norms and institutions that govern energy markets, starting from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of the contending perspectives in IPE as they apply to energy issues.
  • Understand the complex development and environmental implications of fossil fuel dependence and the opportunities, difficulties and problems associated with transitions to other energy sources.


You may apply to be a guest student at SUM. Please follow these instructions.


As a seminar, this course is based heavily on reading and class discussions. There will be some specific lecture periods to clarify major concepts, introduce broad themes and theoretical perspectives. The bulk of the course, however, is seminar-based. Students will be expected to participate in discussions, exercises and debates in class.


Class participation (15%), mind map exercise (15%), written op-ed exercise (20%) and final course paper (50%).

  • Students are required to prepare questions and lead seminars each week. During our initial meeting, students will be asked to sign up to the class(es) where they will be seminar leaders.
  • The mind-map of the Governance of the Global Energy Market is an exercise due on March 6, where students are asked to make a schematic presentation, via mind-map, of the different actors and institutions that intervene in the Governance of the Energy Market. Students are asked to show analytically how these actors and institutions interact, collide or cooperate. They will be asked to present a draft of their mind-map in the class of March 4. 
  • Participants are asked to choose one week topic and write an 'op-ed' exercise. The goal of the exercise is for participants to provide a personal informed opinion on the topic, drawing on the readings of the class and relevant issues. Just like a regular op-ed, students can only write 800 words and it is due on the date and class where the topic is discussed. Students will sign up in advance to choose the topic. 
  • For the final paper, students can expand on one of the topics discussed or can use specific cases (projects, countries, regions, actors, types of energy) to discuss a relevant topic of the International Political Economy of Energy. The paper should not be longer than 5,000 including references, using appropriate referencing style.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

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Special examination arrangements

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Facts about this course






Spring 2020

The teaching period in spring 2020 is February 17th - March 18th


Spring 2020

Teaching language